Stéphane Hette

“I am thrilled to be haunted by beautiful things”

Interview with Stéphane Hette, naturalist photographer & image hunter.

immature female Erythromma lindenii on Caltha palustris

Hello Stéphane, thank you for agreeing to talk with us. We’re delighted to kick off our “Fanatalk” session with you, a fellow nature enthusiast.

You’re a naturalist photographer, and we’d encourage our readers to take a look at your work through a selection of images to illustrate this interview. The French TV France 5 gardening programme “Silence, ça pousse!” did a report on you to that you can watch if you click the link at the bottom of the article. You admitted: “I am thrilled to be haunted by beautiful things”, and we completely understand your point.

Fan. What has been your experience during this strange period from which we are just emerging on a personal and professional level?

S.H. On a personal level I was worried about the older people in my family, but it didn’t change my life a great deal. I live in the countryside, I see more animals than I do people, so it didn’t affect my work. I filled in the French government’s official permission slips so I could go to work, that was the only difference. Some of the images used for the interview were actually taken during lockdown. It was quieter around the ponds. I was able to make videos, which is something that I couldn’t do before because the noise pollution is usually too high. I missed riding my bike. It was hard to go two months without cycling!

Fan. We feel the same way! And it was tough to get back into the swing of things as well. Did you notice an upsurge in species during the lockdown period? 

S.H. Nature simply can’t recover completely in two months. But because there were fewer vehicles, it was easier to see foxes, hares, etc. The pond I usually go to wasn’t maintained, and that was cool! I am campaigning for us to prune later and better, to create one row rather than three… But no, I haven’t seen more species than usual. Perhaps because the weather was warmer, so we saw creatures earlier – especially insects – but it was more to do with the temperature rather than it being quieter.

Fan. We discovered your work through your collaboration with the entomologist François Lasserre in the amazing book:  « les vraies fées de la nature » (the real fairies of nature). When and how did you decide to start taking pictures of insects?

S.H. With insects it just happened by chance, about twenty years ago now. I saw a butterfly in my house, I slipped a sheet of paper behind it and I thought, “Hey, that’s pretty, I like that”. I was fascinated. But it was hard to recreate that happy coincidence. So I set aside one of the rules of nature photography, which is to never touch your subject. I went walking around with a butterfly net and a set of little boxes. I always carry little boxes with me when I go for a walk and I bring lots of creatures home with me. It just happened naturally, and I gradually became more and more intrigued by how all this life comes into being.

Fan. Yes, because you have been developing a very specific technique for your shots.

S.H. That’s right. I put a white background behind the subject, whether it’s a plant, an insect or a bird. If it’s a bird, I photograph it outdoors, of course. I adjust the screen size to fit the subject and use two groups of flashes: one group that exposes the subject and the other that exposes the background, so I can remove the shadows that are generated by the first group. It might seem a bit complex, but it’s just a two-curtain sync. It’s a simple process: there are no cables, no heat, no stress for the living thing, and all the equipment fits into a backpack. I’ve been walking around with this kit for over fifteen years. People often ask me if I ever get fed up of always taking photographs in the same way! But it’s really the subject that makes the photo great, not the technique.

Fan. And you don’t touch up your photos. The result is striking as much in its precision as in its poetry.  

Argynnis aglaja “hana”

Fan. You have a soft spot for butterflies, and your two blogs « artofbutterfly » and « la vie rêvée des papillons » (the dream life of butterflies) really show that. What do you love so much about these animals?

S.H. It’s their metamorphosis! Everyone loves butterflies, but no one likes caterpillars. I think it’s wonderful to have the ability to be several things at once. We’re all several things at once, we all have different aspects to our character. I’m a huge nature fan and I also love motorcycles! Ideally, I shouldn’t love Grand Prix motorbike racing so much! 

Fan. Humans are a constant paradox!

S.H. You just have to live with it. But I’m happiest behind a camera lens. I just love taking in all the beauty around me. I don’t create that poetry; it is already there. Perhaps I enhance it, when I do my job well.  

Cetonia aurata Rosa canina “habataku”

Fan. We recently published an article on the pioneers, thosenaturalist explorers who shared the richness of the world’s biodiversity through their high-quality observations and expert drawings. What legacy have they left for today’s naturalists?

S.H. First and foremost, knowledge. They enhanced beauty with knowledge. Nature isn’t just pretty. Beauty is a question of taste and while you could say that universal beauty does exist, it is not much use in isolation. These pioneers have served as inspiration for me, but not just the ones from Europe, I really like the prints made by the Asian, Chinese or Japanese explorers. Some Chinese painters have made incredible observations, they noticed that butterfly wings actually twist, something which was only proven scientifically very recently. I have lots of books on talented illustrators from the Far East.

Fan. Could you recommend any of them in particular? 

Papillons messagers éphémères

S.H. I have this little book called PAPILLONS (butterflies) published by the BNF, which doesn’t cost very much. It is a collection of some wonderful ancient works. I am fascinated by these painters whose culture is so different from ours, and who are also outstanding naturalists. The art of contemplation is deeply rooted in Asian philosophy, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Fan. Thank you Stéphane, we’ll add a reference for that book at the end of the article. Speaking of Asia, you sign all your works using a Japanese monogram. What does it mean?

S.H. I was adopted when I was two years old, and although he was a great parent, I didn’t really see eye to eye with my adoptive father. So my last name, “Hette”, didn’t mean very much to me. I did many years of research and it turns out that in Japanese, [E-TE] means “the hand & the image”, therefore the illustrator, the painter, the photographer. Before, I used to be an illustrator, I can still draw, and I actually sign my books with a drawing. This Japanese name suits me much better than the original in French. And it’s a nice way to round off my pictures. Without it, I feel that something is missing to confirm that the work is mine. My signature is the small rectangle on the left, and the square that goes with it means: “the description of nature”.

Lysandra bellargus “daiuchuu”

Fan. It’s discreet, elegant and understated, it really suits you. We’d like to thank you, Stéphane, for giving us a glimpse into your wonderful world. We’ll be keeping a close eye on your work as a nature ambassador. Good luck and see you soon!

Translated from French by Ruth Simpson

Pyronia bathseba “gitai”
Libellula quadrimaculatasuisaienogu
Cicada orni “higurashi”

If you’d like to learn more about Stéphane Hette, here are some links to his treasures

To see:
Émission « Silence, ça pousse ! » de France 5 (french)
Galerie Blin plus Blin Fine art copies numbered, certified & signed – limited edition

To follow:
French blogs
Art of Butterfly
La vie rêvée des papillons

Social medias

To read:


Chasseur d’images

Bedside books

  2. Zao Shao Ang Hua Ji
  3. Plantes et Fleurs Du Voyage. Dessins Naturalistes XVIIème-XIXème Siècles – Actes Sud
  4. Fabuleux Insectes, Paul Starosta – Léon Rogez – Jean-Pierre Vesco – Éditions du Chêne
  5. Les fleurs par les grands maîtres de l’estampe japonaise, Amélie Balcou – Éditions Hazan
  6. La quête du naturaliste, Benoît Fontaine – Éditions Transboréal

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Laurier Street collage hippocampe couleurs

Laurier Street

Animals are moving to the city.

Interview with Laurier Street, street artist.

Laurier Street en train de coller un poisson

Hello Laurier, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the third edition of Fanatalk: a conversation between nature enthusiasts.
You are a street artist, and we absolutely love your collages of animals with their imaginative decorations. It makes a nice change from the hyper-realistic or fantasy-style animals that you see most of the time…

L.S. Yes, I add some personal touches by decorating them with swirls and patterns. People have displaced nature in recent years and my intention is to bring them back into the urban environment, but in a different way. That’s why I use the tagline “Animals are moving to the city.

Laurier Street collage hippocampe Mucem
Seahorse – Ink on paper / Mucem Marseille

Fan. What gave you the idea?

L.S. I have been drawing for years and I’m always scribbling swirls and patterns in my notebooks. I love to draw but I never thought my work would see the light of day. Last year I had a tour around Lisbon looking at the street art there with a specialist guide. I was struck by the way she presented the art works and I discovered the collage technique, which involves cutting out a drawing and pasting it outdoors on the street.

Where street art was concerned, I was more familiar with graffiti. I was struck by the idea of the collage because it was fairly similar to what I was already doing. I also found out that there were quite a few girls who were using this technique, and that it wasn’t necessarily a field only for men. I thought why don’t I try that too? I started with a small drawing of an octopus because it had a feeling of movement that I liked.

Fan. And that’s actually how we first found out about your work. It was in the Oberkampf district of Paris. That’s impressive. But you’re originally from the South of France aren’t you?

L.S. That’s right! Being from Marseille, I have a real soft spot for sea creatures, especially the ones that live in theMediterranean. So I pasted up one drawing and I thought it was fun, I liked it. Getting outside rather than being stuck alone at home with my drawing pad, and sticking up my works in the street art districts of Marseille meant that I could come into contact with people and I began trying my hand at slightly larger formats. That’s how it all started.

Fan. What has changed for you since you started filling the streets with your work? 

L.S. At the end of the summer in 2019 I pasted up my first animal. It’s quite refreshing to draw animals and talk to people passing by, children and adults alike… It makes them smile when they see a small fish on their way to work in the morning! 

I think that’s my new passion, it’s fulfilling and I meet lots of people. At first I was quite reluctant to paste my art works in broad daylight with my face uncovered, so I hid under my hood. I would go out pasting up my work in the evening; and then I realised that when I displayed my art spontaneously, on a Sunday afternoon for example, people would come and talk to me, ask me questions… As a result, I developed my collages: I talked about doing larger formats but I also brought in colour, which makes the animals even more alive. I then started having articles about me in the Marseille press, in the street art guide, it’s been really nice.

Laurier Street collage hippocampe couleurs
Seahorse – Watercolour and ink on paper

Fan. How was lockdown for you?

L.S. I took the opportunity to work on more drawings, which of course I couldn’t wait to get out and paste up! But it was above all a chance for me to sit down and do some research. For example I worked on adding a layer of watercolour to my drawings or started writing down all my ideas for the future. When the lockdown measures were eased, I was more than ready to bring out my work and share it in the street.

Fan. Speaking of watercolours, are you totally self-taught in your techniques or have you had drawing lessons?

L.S. Indeed, I am completely self-taught, I have never taken any lessons and these spiral techniques come straight out of my imagination, even my unconscious mind. I go into a kind of semi-hypnosis when I draw, it’s actually quite relaxing. Lately I have done my own testing with watercolours, and the results have sometimes been surprising! I studied town planning, and I have always loved city streets. That’s what really drove me outside and made me want to represent the city in a different way with my animals. 

Laurier Street collage Fleur
Flower – Ink on paper

Fan. You often add a caption to the photos of collages that you publish on your Instagram account. We really love the flower in particular. Why don’t you always include those captions on the walls, like the messages by Miss.Tic for example? 

L.S. My approach is different: I’m a big fan of French rap, which involves a very literary element.All the captions for my drawings come from the rappers I admire and always quote, and they allow me to combine my two passions. That flower is a special project: I have a Canadian friend who writes poems and as we both appreciate what the other creates, we decided to do a mini collaboration combining words and images to add another dimension to the drawing. 

Fan. Your choice of quotes suggests that you value freedom, breaking through what society expects of you…

L.S. Yes I probably need that, and it’s true, street art involves breaking the rules:pasting my work on walls is semi-illegal. But I don’t want to do anyone any harm, I just want to express myself on the street. I have always been an introvert, so I draw enormous strength from producing my drawings in complete freedom. Animals are also a symbol of the freedom to move, to swim, or to go wherever they like. We humans are more limited, we are contained within our society. I also really need space, to discover my city differently, as well as other cities where I would never have been able to go. The world is opening up to me and I really want to go out and paste my drawings wherever the mood takes me!

Fan. Have you ever had any problems with the police? 

L.S. Some drawings have been painted over by graffiti cleaners, which does make sense. But recently, even though it was during the official Grenoble Street Art festival, I was pasting a seahorse onto a wall with a member of the festival organisation team who is from Grenoble herself, and another woman threw several buckets of water from the fourth floor!

But in terms of official authorities, I choose places where my drawings cause as little disturbance as possible: I avoid new facades, certain types of stone… I only look for the positive side of street art and I respect the city.

Fan. That’s a smart way to look at it. Just like the world-famous artist Invader who leaves his mosaics all over big cities, but works very discreetly…

L.S. The world of street art is going through some really interesting changes. My art is created on canvases that are lesspermanent than mosaics or paint, even though some collages have managed to resist the elements for over a year. In the Panier district in Marseille for example, street art is tolerated and the works are all still there. But the temporary nature of my work also has its charm, that’s what street art is all about. 

Fan. Can we come back to the flower? Have you heard about the public initiative known as Sauvages de ma rue, which encourages people to take pictures and list the names of the plants that grow naturally around their homes? It reminds us of your slogan: “Animals are moving to the city”. 

L.S. This flower is the only one to date, but I do intend to do more exploring into the plant world. It has huge potential and I’m known as Laurier (bay leaf) so I am thinking about it. I might look at creating some climbing plants, Mediterranean plants to stay local… and for the colours too. There are definitely some wonderful ideas I’m yet to explore. It actually could be interesting to draw parallels between the wild plants that grow in an urban environment and drawings on the walls.

Fan. Your project struck a chord with us because it is similar to that of Fanatura, in the sense that we both are making a genuine commitment to nature, through an optimistic and respectful approach, with a little mystery, or even magnetism, but above all completely free of aggressiveness or violence.

L.S. Yes, it is more about questioning, of arousing curiosity rather than trying to make people come on board with an idea. Street art is right there in front of you, every day. Either you walk past it without seeing it, or you look at it without necessarily interpreting it properly. It really makes me happy when people tell me that it has moved them, that they have never seen anything so pretty on the street and that my drawings have helped change their minds about graffiti and street art in general.

Fan. Do you think it’s a generational issue?

L.S. No, I would say it’s intergenerational. One day I was pasting up a drawing and a couple came to tell me that their two children didn’t like going to school, but since I had pasted up my drawings, they had been happy to get up and see them every morning, and check if there were any new ones. It was an exciting change of scenery for them to see a lion or a fish on their way to school! I put a lot of emotion into my work and that kind of feedback is very welcome. 

I also took my grandmother with me when I pasted up some works in her neighbourhood. So every day on her way to the bakery she can walk past the bird she pasted up, and she can talk about it with her neighbours. Animals bring people together because they resonate with all generations. It is an open project, and it might not seem very “green” at first glance but it can be understood on several different levels, and if all it does is make children, parents or older smile as they pass, then I have achieved something great.

Fan. What effects have ancient illustrations by explorers had on your work?

L.S. I like doing research on the subjects I draw, and that might include research on drawings of the animal or simply information from a Wikipedia page. So I came across those types of illustrations quite naturally. They have very clear, very legible lines, and they helped me a lot as I learnt to understand the shapes of different animals. I use various sources to create my own drawings, but these plates really do have a lot of charm, they are interesting graphically and historically. They’re very inspiring. 

Fan. Nature is depicted in many new and different ways all the time. And we at Fanatura are big fans of that! Laurier, thank you very much for agreeing to be part of this Fanatalk, it was a great conversation between nature enthusiasts. We’ll keep an eye out for your works on the walls of our streets, and we’ll follow your work online. We love being surprised by your beautiful swirls and patterns. 

Translated from French by Ruth Simpson

If you’d like to learn more about Laurier Street, here are some links to her treasures ▾

Limited edition fish screen prints

Follow on:

Read about her in french:
La Marseillaise

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Charles-Alexandre Lesueur

« Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, a gifted naturalist explorer. »

Interview with Gabrielle Baglione who manages the Charles-Alexandre Lesueur collection at Muséum d’histoire naturelle du Havre.

Méduse Rhizostoma octopus
Charles-Alexandre LESUEUR (1778-1846),
Méduse Rhizostoma octopus (Linné, 1788) (Scyphoméduse),
Undated – between 1804 et 1815, watercolour on vellum, 42,3 x 28,5 cm – Inv. 70054

Hello Gabrielle, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the fourth edition of Fanatalk: a conversation between nature enthusiasts.

You work for the natural history museum in Le Havre, and your role involves managing the Charles-Alexandre Lesueur art collection. He was a 19th-century naturalist explorer whose life and works are absolutely fascinating. He was instrumental in founding the museum after he bequeathed a huge variety of natural history specimens to his city. We are delighted to be able to learn more about him by talking to you.

Fan. First of all, how did you come to work in this very particular role?

G.B. I studied art history and specialised in art from Oceania. So I came across Charles-Alexandre Lesueur through his work on Voyage aux terres australes (voyage to southern lands). That is when I heard about this collection and how I came to work with it for several years. As I also studied museology, the city of Le Havre hired me to ensure that the original drawings from this collection could be made available to the public.

Fan. Tell us about the Baudin expedition, the famous “voyage to southern lands”.

The expedition was commissioned by the First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte and was organisedby the natural history museum in Paris in March 1800. There was very little time to prepare because the ship left Le Havre on 19 October that same year. And yet it was an extremely ambitious expedition with two main objectives:

  • Map out the south-eastern part of New Holland (present-day Australia) as well as Van Diemen’s Land (present-day Tasmania),
  • Collect specimens (animals, plants, minerals, etc.) to continue the inventory of all living and non-living species in nature.

The two ships used for the expedition were called Géographe and Naturaliste.

Nearly 100,000 samples were brought back for the purpose of recording various species. The expedition’s contribution to science, according to Georges Cuvier, exceeded the three voyages by James Cook in the Pacific that had taken place between 20 and 30 years earlier. There was a third anthropological objective that was fairly new at the time. The scientists on the expedition had received very precise instructions on how to study the natives and their social behaviour. The brand new – and very short-lived – Société des Observateurs de l’Homme therefore gave that task to the experienced captain Nicolas Baudin, who was focused on the natural sciences and botany in particular. He set off with 200 people, including about forty scientists from every field of science, around two or three for each discipline, and told them to bring back as many samples as they could.

They all knew that they may not ever return. In fact Captain Baudin himself died of tuberculosis in 1803 on what used to be called Île de France – now Mauritius – on their journey back, but the group’s thirst for discovery and desire to record the wonders of the natural world meant that they persevered.

Carte du voyages aux terres australes - Expédition Baudin (1800-1804)

Fan. In four years, including the round trip, the expedition was incredibly effective!

Yes, especially because the trip took seven months just to get there, with several stopovers …In terms of physical anthropology, Georges Cuvier gave specific advice for observing humans. He explains that scientists could, if the opportunity arose, bring back human samples, but nobody did. In matters of social anthropology, directives were given by Joseph-Marie De Gérando for the observation of manners and customs. The scholars tried to follow these instructions, but it was difficult with the aboriginal groups that they sometimes met only during a stopover, during the brief time it took to map out the geography of a coastal area.

The explorers brought back 206 objects and gave them to Joséphine de Beauharnais but there is no trace of these objects. All that remains from their journey around Tasmania and continental Australia are the very precise drawings by Lesueur. They were so precise that contemporary Tasmanian artists were able to find the techniques that were used and reproduce the lost objects. Oral transmission suffered enormously during some disastrous events in Tasmanian history. The population struggled with disease and deportations due to slavery practices in parts of South Australia. Two hundred years later the people were able to move back west and the experience must have been extraordinary!

I have met several Tasmanian artists who all carry around a reproduction of a certain drawing by Lesueur, because they consider it to be fundamental in their culture. It is extremely touching and more than justifies conserving and presenting these works. There is evidence right now that the samples collected during this expedition still have a lot to tell us. I am actually working on an exhibition on that subject, involving contemporary Tasmanian objects.

Fan. In what way did Charles-Alexandre Lesueur demonstrate his talents? 

It was impossible to imagine that such an expedition, so far away, would go ahead without someone keeping arecord of everything the explorers would see. Three official illustrators were therefore appointed but they got off the ship at the first stopover on the Île de France. Two other artists who were responsible for managing Captain Baudin’s personal records were then promoted: Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and his companion Nicolas Martin-Petit, who had been trained in the studio belonging to Jacques-Louis David, and who was responsible for creating the portraits of the aborigines, or les naturels as they were called at the time. Nicolas Martin-Petit died followng an accident a few months after the Géographe returned in March 1804. He was young but had been affected by the very gruelling trip. Involving tropical diseases and nutritional deficiencies, it was probably the deadliest scientific expedition of the time.

Lesueur was one of the scholars and assistants who managed to return in a healthy enough condition to take care of publishing the results officially. He handled the drawings, while the writing was entrusted to the zoologist and anthropologist François Péron. They went to Bonaparte, who at that time had become Emperor, and handed him the first ever copy of la relation du voyage de découvertes aux terres australes, which was published from 1807. The maps were printed in 1811 and constituted the first complete cartography of Australia. Moreover, many places in Australia and Tasmania bear the names of the scientists from this expedition in tribute to those that died, and the work they carried out, including Cape Lesueur. Intrigued by the French names, more and more Australians are now learning about and becoming fascinated by the history of this expedition.

« Y-erran-gou-la-ga », homme d’Australie
« Y-erran-gou-la-ga », Australian man
Nicolas-Martin Petit – Print – 36,3 x 27,0 cm – Inv. 20042
« Oui-Ré-Kine », femme d’Australie
« Oui-Ré-Kine », Australian woman
Nicolas-Martin Petit – Print – 35,9 x 25,5 cm – Inv. 20032-4

Charles-Alexandre Lesueur lived in Paris with François Péron and worked on publishing his drawings. He kept the drawings with him, as well as the ones by Nicolas Martin-Petit, so he could work on them. That took a long time. There are often up to four drawings of the same individual, which can be considered preparatory studies. Charles-Alexandre Lesueur liked to work on vellum (the skins of stillborn calves), because of its smooth and even texture. The medium allowed him to produce very precise renderings and enhance his watercolours.

Grand Kangourou, Macropus giganteus
Grand Kangourou, Macropus giganteus (Zimmerman, 1777) – Australia. Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Watercolour, pencil & ink on vellum – 25 x 40 cm – Inv. 80056

Weakened by pulmonary tuberculosis, which he contracted during the expedition, François Péron decided to follow advice from his doctors and spent the winter of 1809 on the Côte d’Azur. Lesueur went along with him and spent his time drawing on their journey through France. Tirelessly filling his notebooks, he would sketch landscapes, cities, local people, fauna and flora. They settled in Nice in the February. While Péron rested, Lesueur would go out on boats. He brought back several Mediterranean species, which fascinated both men, especially the samples of zoophytes and molluscs. With relentless curiosity, they would marvel at the diversity before their eyes, and with the same dedication they worked hard on describing and illustrating what they found.

Chrysaora Pleurophora
Chrysaora Pleurophora
Charles-Alexandre Lesueur Watercolour and pencil on vellum – 43,9 x 29,3 cm – Inv. 70061
Chrysaora Lesueur
Chrysaora Lesueur
Charles-Alexandre Lesueur Watercolour and pencil on vellum – 43,2 x 27,9 cm – Inv. 70060
Rhizostoma Cuvieri
Rhizostoma Cuvieri – Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Watercolour on vellum – 28,1 x 42,8 cm – Inv. 70055

Fan. During the time he spent in Nice, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur produced his finest work, and in our view, the most remarkable. His vellums of jellyfish demonstrate unprecedented precision, finesse and realism. But his adventures were far from over…

Sadly François Péron eventually died of tuberculosis. But Lesueur kept going, though he decided to return home following the death of his friend.

He then split his time between Paris and Le Havre and sought to obtain an official post at the museum. In 1815, an American geologist by the name of William Maclure arrived in France to find out more about recent scientific progress. He was a rich businessman and philanthropist who spent some of his fortune on science. He suggested that the young and talented Charles-Alexandre go with him to North America to work on recording and classifying the local animal species. Lesueur jumped at the chance and signed a two-year contract. He became a correspondent for the natural history museum in Paris and a naturalist explorer once more.

The adventure lasted twenty-one years, during which he spent his time crisscrossing the Great American East. From the Canadian border to New Orleans, he covered every single state, navigating the great rivers and meticulously listing all the species he encountered, showing a particular liking for turtles and fish.

Pylodictis olivaris
Pylodictis olivaris (Rafinesque, 1818) New-Orleans – Charles-Alexandre Lesueur Watercolour and pencil on paper 46.5 x 31 cm – Inv. 76061
Tortue Terrapene carolina (Linné, 1758) Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Aquarelle sur papier – 30 x 34 cm - Inv. 78024
Tortue Terrapene carolina (Linné, 1758) Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Watercolour on paper – 30 x 34 cm – Inv. 78024
Dauphin Delphinus delphis (Linné, 1758) observe aux Etats-Unis Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Aquarelle sur papier – 30 x 45 cm - Inv. 80011
Dauphin Delphinus delphis (Linné, 1758) observe aux Etats-Unis Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Watercolour on paper – 30 x 45 cm – Inv. 80011
Peut-être un cygne siffleur Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Aquarelle et crayon sur papier – 29 x 42,5 cm - Inv. 79048-1
Peut-être un cygne siffleur Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Watercolour and pencil on paper – 29 x 42,5 cm – Inv. 79048-1

When he returned in 1837, France had been through some huge changes. Repeated political unrest had weakened the country, which was trying to bring its industry up to the level of its English rivals. His hometown of Le Havre had experienced these in-depth transformations first hand. Like some other large French cities, it established its own natural history museum, which was made possible by the collection bequeathed to it by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur. He was appointed its first director in 1845,  but never managed to occupy the position because he died at the end of 1846, just before the museum opened.

Fan. How is this exceptional collection preserved?

We like to think that we have made him immortal! In any case we do whatever we can to keep it safe and protected for as long as possible… During the Second World War, the collection was transferred to a secure location by the curator at the time, which was a smart move. The other specimens in the museum were mostly destroyed in the bombings.

Since then, we have implemented a very strict protocol. When the specimens have been on display for three months, they are then systematically put into storage for three years of rest, protected from light. The works are restored by experts before each new exhibition. We have just published an article about this subject on our blog, you can go and read it.

Opération de restauration d'une œuvre de Charles-Alexandre Lesueur
Restoration of a work of Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Photos : Cléa Hameury

Fan. Do you send the collection to different places? 

G.B. Never all of it, but we did organise a large-scale travelling exhibition in 2016 with the Australian Embassy inFrance. It was called L’oeil et la main (the eye and the hand), and it retraced the journey to the southern lands. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Baudin expedition, 400 drawings by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas Martin-Petit were sent to Australia and Tasmania. They then went on a two-year journey to the country’s main cities: Adelaide, Launceston, Hobart, Sydney, Canberra and Perth.

Fan. Have you ever thought about partnering with any other French institutions such as the national museum of natural history or the jellyfish section of the Paris Aquarium for example?


G.B. Yes of course, every chance we get is an opportunity to share the wonders of the collection. This month,the Musée d’Orsay is opening a major exhibition entitled Les origines du monde – L’invention de la nature au siècle de Darwin (the origins of the world, the invention of nature in Darwin’s century). This event will take a look back on the historic upheaval of the 19th century, where science and the arts came together, and promises to be a huge success. Nine drawings from the Lesueur collection will be exhibited there.

Fan. That’s right, it’s the MUST-SEE event for the year! When is the next Lesueur exhibition at the natural history museum in Le Havre and what is the theme?

G.B. The Australian Embassy in France is launching a programme between June and October 2021 called “Australia now France 2021”. As part of the programme, the museum will run an exhibit entitled “Australia”. Objects from both old and contemporary collections will be presented to mark the friendship between the two countries, both past and future. Visitors will be able to find out more about discoveries, encounters, environments, animals, distances, imaginary creations, etc. Some of the graphic arts collection will of course be on display during the exhibition.

Fan. We can’t wait to see it! After lockdown measures were eased, many French people went back out to see nature this summer, and destinations such as the Ardèche, Auvergne or the Cévennes were more popular than usual. Have you also noticed a resurgence of public interest in the museum and its exhibitions?

G.B. It is true that the public came out of lockdown feeling frustrated and cut off from culture generally. People came rushing back to the museum when it reopened. It was so wonderful to see families return, eager to find out more about the natural sciences. The museum in Le Havre is designed for a very young audience, starting at two or three years old for some of its attractions. We always strive to design exhibitions and events that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.  

Muséum d’histoire naturelle du Havre – Credits: RR.
Muséum d’histoire naturelle du Havre – Credits: RR.

Fan. Tell us a surprising anecdote from your career…

G.B. The bust you can see behind me is of Captain Nicolas Baudin.Commissioned by an association that works to protect the heritage of the voyage to the southern lands, this Australian sculpture was presented to the city of Le Havre and other key locations from the expedition. It had been installed in front of the entrance to the port from which the expedition left, and was designed to ensure that Commander Baudin was never forgotten. Unfortunately, the bust was vandalised. It will be restored over the coming years, but in the meantime it is in storage… For the moment, Nicolas Baudin will remain forgotten! 

Buste de Nicolas Baudin - Le Havre © Photos : Pierre Noël
Buste de Nicolas Baudin – Le Havre © Photos : Pierre Noël
Charles-Alexandre Lesueur en 1818
								peint par Charles Willson Peale
								The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (USA)
Charles-Alexandre Lesueur in 1818 painted by Charles Willson Peale The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (USA)

Fan. There is no doubt that you will be able to tell his story in the same way as you told the story of Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, whose work you admire and share with so much enthusiasm. Thank you Gabrielle for this very interesting conversation. We’ll be sure to find out what happens with the collection and we look forward to hearing more news from the Le Havre natural history museum. Keep on doing your remarkable work as an ambassador for nature.

Translation from French by Ruth Simpson

If you’d like to learn more about Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, here are some links to his treasures

La collection Lesueur en cinq questions
French interview of Gabrielle Baglione (4 min)


Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, peintre voyageur, un trésor oublié

Charles-Alexandre Lesueur
Peintre voyageur, un trésor oublié

Auteur : Cédric Crémière, Gabrielle Baglione
Éditeur : Editions Conti2009

Sur la côte d’Azur
Carnet de voyage de Lesueur et Péron, du Havre à Nice en 1809

Auteur : Gabrielle Baglione
Editeur : Editions Conti2009

Méduses / Jellyfish
Grand Prix du Beau-Livre 2015 de l’Académie de Marine

Auteur : Illustrations de C-A Lesueur – Textes de François Péron, Gabrielle Baglione, Cédric Crémière, Jacqueline Goy-Trabut, Stéphane Schmitt – Traduction : Judith Bentley.
Editeur : Muséum du Havre – Editions MkF2014

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Coral Guardian

Adopt a coral with Coral Guardian!

Interview with Audrey Maillard, Partnerships Manager & Coco Tamlyn, Communications Manager at Coral Guardian.


Hello Audrey and Coco, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the fifth edition of Fanatalk: a conversation between nature enthusiasts.

Along with this interview, we’re also presenting a new section on the Fanatura blog. We’re going to be sharing information about some of our favourite organisations that help to protect biodiversity. Your association rebuilds and protects coral ecosystems by getting local people involved and raising public awareness. We’re excited about looking at what happens behind the scenes at your wonderful initiative known as Coral Guardian.

Fan. First of all, what gave you the idea?

A.M. It came from our founder, Martin Colognoli. He’s a marine biologist who specialises in aquariums. He originally moved to Indonesia with the aim of exporting exotic fish to Europe. He soon realised that doing that would be disastrous for the species, because very few specimens survived the journey: 8 out of 10 fish were found dead when they arrived at their destination.

This realisation changed everything. He learnt that corals were home to 25% of marine biodiversity, so he decided to co-found Coral Guardian in 2012, with the goal of preserving the habitat of a species that, until then, he had been exploiting. Several attempts were unsuccessful. Then came the Hatamin project (Pulau Hatamin Coral Sanctuary), which has been our pilot initiative since 2015. The site is located on an island northwest of Flores, near Indonesia’s Komodo National Park. As a result of our hard work, the area was officially declared a government-protected marine area in 2019.

Fan. How did you implement your programme?

C.T. It’s all about long-term effort. So the local population needs to be on board. The first tests that we ran in Bali showed that without the help of local residents, our actions would always come to nothing. The success of the Hatamin site is largely due to the fact that two thirds of the people who work there used to fish in that same area.

Pêcheurs Hatamin
Plongeurs Hatamin

Fan. We saw on your website that they used to fish with dynamite. Is that right?

A.M. It seems impossible to believe, but yes, they used to fish with dynamite and cyanide! That meant they brought in great catches, but not for long… In fact, they had to go further and further away to find the fish. Because the village with a population of 750 people depends on fishing for its livelihood, they had to act fast. When we observed the damage, we found that the coral had been completely destroyed around their reef.

Fan. How do you “replant” coral? 

A.M. The language used to talk about coral is quite strange, because even though it’s a species of animal, we use terms that are more closely related to plant reproduction: sowing, seedlings, cuttings, etc.

C.T. There are various techniques for replanting coral. We tested several of them (ropes, ceramics, concrete, etc.), we finally decided on light metal structures that could withstand the fairly strong currents in the region. The first corals we grew there were the same as the very few that had survived from the original reef. We have always focused on replanting endemic species. With around 38,000 corals transplanted, we are now taking cuttings from the first structures.

Pose de greffons de corail

Fan. It’s five years since the project began. Is the reef now completely restored?

A.M. Most of it is, yes. If the cuttings of tropical coral settle into their environment, they can develop rapidly. They grow a centimetre to a centimetre and a half every month. Results can be seen very quickly. We now have an area of rebuilt coral that extends over about two hectares.


Fan. Have the techniques you developed been used elsewhere? Do you share your insight with other initiatives around the world?

A.M. Yes, absolutely. As this experiment has been successful for science, the environment and the local populations, we have created a programme called “Blue Center” which provides support from Coral Guardian to any organisation looking to develop its own restoration project. There is a permanent call for applications on our website. Just complete an online form. Depending on the level of urgency and the project’s feasibility, we decide whether or not to follow up on the request. Our support ranges from straightforward advice in the form of a training manual for the most independent suggestions, and financial support and monitoring over a minimum period of three years for “core projects”.

Fan. How many of those projects are underway at the moment?

A.M. We have three solid cases in review. The most advanced project is in Malaga, Spain, where we are launching SOS Corals, the first interactive marine conservation project in the Mediterranean. This project will include different families of corals. And it’s very exciting to launch a restoration programme in Europe, close to home.

C.T. Above all, the issue we’re tackling is different because now we are fighting against pollution, the number-one problem in the Mediterranean. Our goal is to clean the seabed, educate locals and tourists, and restore the coral beds, which are a unique form of biodiversity in this area.

Fan. Your approach to fundraising is pretty fresh. You ask people to pay €30 to “adopt a coral”, which means providing the funds to transplant it. How exactly is the money used?

C.T. That is the exact cost of replanting a coral in terms of material and human resources. It also covers the studies involved, as well as operating costs for the association. However, it is not a sustainable economic model because it is a one-off donation. By definition, if people only adopt a coral once, we won’t be able to safeguard the association’s long-term future. We are therefore encouraging people to make a monthly donation of whatever amount they choose, as well as adopting a coral.

Fan. When did you start this donation system and how much of your funding does it account for today?

C.T. The coral adoption programme started in 2013 and it now accounts for about 30% of our funding. So these donations are absolutely essential not only from an economic point of view, but for our image. As people often adopt a coral as a gift for someone else, details about Coral Guardian’s work are shared with more and more people. It’s a great tool for raising awareness about what we do.

Fan. How does the initiative work for the donor?

C.T. Each donor can give a name to the coral they adopt. The donor then receives a certificate of the donation with the GPS coordinates of the area where it will be transplanted, with a symbolic photo of a coral and a shot of the person who will handle the operation. Unfortunately, we cannot provide specific details about each individual coral we transplant, but we share information with our donors on how the area is developing through our social media accounts and our monthly newsletter.

Fan. Is there an estimate of the overall condition of coral reefs around the world?

C.T. The most recent reports drawn up by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) all state that in the space of forty years, about 40% of the world’s reefs have already disappeared. Scientists also agree that if nothing is done by 2050, almost all of them will have disappeared. The finding is worrying, but our initiative, as well as other programmes around the world, are showing that this bleak picture doesn’t have to become a reality. The only thing we know for sure is that we need to act now, and we need to act together. We know how to go about replanting coral, so with financial support we think that humankind will rise to the challenge.

Fan. A bit like we did for the hole in the ozone layer by limiting our use of greenhouse gases. According to scientists, that problem will be permanently resolved by 2070, thanks to international agreements that were signed at the end of the 1980s. What more do you think we can do to increase awareness and support coral-protection initiatives?

A.M. Every individual and collective initiative that helps to preserve biodiversity is a small victory. As results are being published on social media, public awareness can only be improved, and behaviours to curb overconsumption will become more widespread. Once again, we can only achieve that if we all work together.

Récif corallien reconstitué

Fan. That responsibility weighs especially heavily on the shoulders of the young generation, who have been born into a world that already suffers from these problems. They feel very strongly that it’s up to them to heal the planet …

C.T. Exactly. Recently I got an email from a 12-year-old girl who lives in Lyon. She had adopted a coral and was adamant that she wanted to support us and promote our work by putting up posters around her school. And we’re receiving more and more requests like these. We have actually created a promotion kit for people like that pupil who want to do their bit. It contains various tools to help them organise a mini conference on the subject with those around them. The kit has been used by people of all ages in junior high and high schools, diving centres, youth hostels and companies. Contact us if you’d like to receive one yourself.

Fan. Have these spontaneous initiatives ever turned into concrete actions?

A.M. Yes, sometimes with incredible outcomes! A high school once organised a display booth about our work at their Christmas market. The donations they received actually funded an entire reef (€900). Reef sponsorship is also popular with companies. One of our CSR programmes takes care of requests from businesses. For individuals, coral wedding anniversaries (11 years in some countries, 35 years in others) are also a great opportunity to give a meaningful and original gift.

Fan. That’s a brilliant idea! You’re obviously highly creative on all fronts, right down to your email signature: “Bien coraillement,” (“Corally yours,”) which just goes to show that it’s possible to tackle a serious issue with a touch of humour. Now that the coral life has been restored to Hatamin, have you been able to see it for yourself?

C.T. I was lucky enough to go last year and it was an incredible experience! What struck me most was the generosity shown by the fishing community of Seraya Besar. The people there lead simple lives, they feed themselves on the fish they catch every day, and are generous to a fault. As they are near to the Komodo National Park, there are lots of tourists in the area. There’s an English teacher in our team who gives classes to other members and at local schools. Our team can then raise awareness about the subject among tourists, and help children (the next generations) to learn how to do the same.

One of the fishermen told us that he had to stop fishing in the area five years ago and was forced to go further out to sea. Two years ago, he started fishing closer to the island, on either side of our protected marine area, which itself cannot be fished. Now he fishes as close as he can to the area, and sells the large groupers he catches there. We keep tabs on the fish population by talking to the fishing community every week. Over the last four years, the number of fish in the area has increased 30-fold. It’s a real victory!

Fan. To celebrate that success, here is a beautiful illustration of a yellow grouper that was drawn almost 200 years ago by Japanese naturalist Kawahara Keiga. It might be a good design for a Fanatura T-shirt?

Epinephelus awoara (Yellow grouper) – Illustration of Kawahara Keiga – Pencil and watercolour on paper – Between 1823 and 1829

Fan. Many thanks to both of you for talking to us, we’ll keep checking in to see what you are doing as ambassadors for nature with your outstanding Coral Guardian projects. Readers, why not adopt a coral right now?!

Translation from French by Ruth Simpson

If you’d like to know more about the Coral Guardian initiatives, check out these links ▾

Coral Guardian

Social medias

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Florence Gendre, illustration ananas décoratif

Florence Gendre

«I was born with a pencil in my hand»

Interview with illustrator Florence Gendre.

Fleur d’ananas sauvage
Ananas cosmosus

Hello Florence, thanks so much for agreeing to join us for the second edition of “Fanatalk“, a conversation between nature enthusiasts.

You are a professional illustrator, and the quality of your work is incredibly impressive, especially your drawings of the natural world. Your talent for classical design is outstanding, as well as your mastery of stunningly beautiful evanescent colours. We’re real fans of your work and we’re excited about getting to know the artist herself…

Fan. Let’s start with an obvious question: how was lockdown for you?

F.G. Very good because I live my life in lockdown! I work from home, and all my work is done remotely. I receive my briefs by email and I send my files back to printers and my customers. It was actually harder for me when lockdown measures were lifted.

Fan. How did you become an illustrator?

F.G. I was born with a pencil in my hand. I have always spent my time drawing, ever since I was a tiny child. By the age of three I was sketching animals with fur and everyone in my family loves drawing. My grandmother went to the Beaux-Arts school of fine arts in 1920, my great-grandfather used to make model toys, my great-grandmother created very beautiful watercolours, and even people who joined our family through marriage loved drawing, so I was surrounded by art and it just rubbed off. Every Christmas and birthday, I would be given either boxes of coloured pencils or books about insects.

Fan. It’s pretty strange for a child to like insects.

F.G. To tell you the truth, I have always been fascinated by insects, reptiles and amphibians. My room was full of them, I used to breed Colorado beetles, ladybirds, lizards, all of that. My uncle and aunt had a house in Dombes and I spent hours at the local ponds finding out more about the creatures that lived there. I also like fish, especially exotic and deep-sea fish. 

Coléoptères / Scarabées

Fan. Why do you have such a soft spot for those species?

F.G. I don’t really like furry animals anymore, I’m not keen on dogs and I hate cats! I’m not interested in other animals either – I’m not bothered about birds – but if I’m anywhere near a pond I go mad for frogs and newts! I can’t get enough. If I find one, I run after it. And doing that has even got me into trouble… One day I was chasing a lizard, I wasn’t paying attention and when it got to a hornet’s nest it went in and I put my hand inside. I ended up in hospital. That’s just a little cautionary tale! I wasn’t put off though, I still love insects as much as ever, I have done ever since I was tiny.

Fan. What about other parts of the natural world?

F.G. Getting back to the subject of nature and my sources of inspiration, my grandmother had a subscription to Connaissance des Arts magazine since it was first published, as well as other magazines featuring the work of a single artist, such as Pierre Joseph Redouté. So we spent hours poring over those together, as well as all the Dutch paintings from the 17th century depicting transparent glass, hanging crustaceans, small lemons and so on. That was the really the theme running through my childhood. My grandmother would also take me to the Tête d’Or park in Lyon, she knew all the gardeners there and we would buy snails in the tropical greenhouse to clean the walls of her aquarium.

Coquillages, crustacés et étoiles de mer / Aquarelle sur papier
Shells, shellfish / Watercolour on paper

Fan. Were you a lonely child?

F.G. Yes fairly lonely. I did have two sisters actually, and a very caring family, but I always sat back and observed, and then I would take out my drawing boards and I always had drawing lessons. I based my entire life on drawing. As a teenager, I used to buy wooden bracelets. I would paint them with flowers and sell them at the homemade objects market in Lyon. My father made me a little machine that would spin the bracelet as I was painting it.

I studied art for my baccalaureate and when I passed, my father said to me: “Hey, I signed you up for a place at art school in Paris. But I’m not sure how it will turn out, because I’ve no idea how you’ll make a career out of it.” Then I found myself on a foundation course for Penninghen. I lived in what used to be a maid’s room on the Ile Saint-Louis. I had no idea how lucky I was because I didn’t know Paris very well. Then I took the entrance exam and was accepted at Arts-Déco. When I left there I started working in advertising.

Fan. How did you manage to stay focused on your love of the natural world while you were working in advertising?

F.G. At Arts-Déco, there was no commercial perspective, we didn’t even have portfolios. So I spent two months putting one together myself when I left: I had made several naturalist drawings depicting strawberries or fritillaria using coloured pencils, or pastels on acrylic backgrounds that I had created using a toothbrush. I had plenty of other designs that were great for advertising, but I’ve always had this love of the natural world, and my first client was the DIY magazine Système D. I did all their gardening illustrations for ten years, all the little things. The drawings weren’t always very artistic, but I had to make a living. 

Then I moved away from nature a bit, I designed car engines, jewellery, architecture, mainly for the luxury market. I love all that. My father had a collection of automated figures that he used to repair, so there were loads of tools around the house. We often helped him out and I became fascinated by mechanics. So I had several different interests and I did a lot of very different things but the seeds had already been planted, or they came from my family. Nothing happens by chance. Mechanics and architecture have always had a special role in my life as well, because when you love art, you also love architecture. When I look at what I do now, it’s an extension of many things that are tied together.

Fondation Cartier
Fondation Cartier

Fan. But looking at your most recent works, it would seem that the natural world has got the upper hand. Is that right? 

F.G. Six years ago I worked for Yves Rocher. I created illustrations for a short video about a plant that climbs upwards and transforms into other flowers. I couldn’t get the leaves right, the greens didn’t look good, I didn’t like it. So I found some tutorials and most of them were made by Agathe Haevermans, a scientific illustrator who teaches at the natural history museum in Paris. I ended up meeting and taking lessons with her. I was able to reconnect with my first love: observing plants and nature and it was a breath of fresh air! It opened the doors to a series of internships: in Lyon, Italy, the Pyrenees, the Amazon rainforest, and I met teachers in all these parts of the world. I don’t speak English but drawing is a universal language, and we always manage to communicate.

So I honed my skills in that area, first because I loved it so much, then I started posting on Instagram and it was a huge success! My customers discovered that type of art and started requesting illustrations. And it is true that it all happened at just the right time: with the increased popularity of organic, natural products, there was lots of demand for packaging art, especially from cosmetic or pharmaceutical brands which obviously contain plants. That all took off incredibly quickly without any real intent on my part.

Fan. And it’s not going anywhere any time soon, you’ve found a good niche! Can we segue into asking which artists inspire you the most and which ones have influenced your style?

F.G. There’s one painter who was a real revelation for me: Vladimir Veličković. He has actually just died. He drew people in motion from photos by Muybridge, with arrows and handwritten annotations. It goes back to the principle of botanical drawings which always include a caption, a description.

When I illustrated objects, I stuck to the same principle: I drew them face-on, at a three-quarter angle, with small sketches next to them and extra annotations. People in the advertising world loved that because it showed the object from all different angles, just like original sketches.

There’s also Domenico Gnoli, an Italian, who painted huge buttons, details from ties, and so on. I really love his work. I’ve drawn lots of inspiration from those artists. 

Fan. You were also inspired by the places you’ve visited…

F.G. That’s another thing I’ve inherited. My great-grandmother travelled to Egypt in 1898. She kept a diary that my mother cherished and bound, and we have all read it. She and my grandmother were both bookbinders, which is yet another manual profession! My father started out as a mountaineer. My mother went with him into the mountains and on many of his trips, which was unheard of at that time. They went to Peru to see Machu Pichu, then to the Amazon rainforest, they brought back parrot feathers and seashells for me. Then I was bitten by the travel bug!

Ten years ago I met a friend with whom I travel to learn more about nature. I love going backpacking, staying in small hotels or with local people, all over the planet. I have been to the Amazon rainforest and Machu Pichu. Travel is part of my life and is essential for my work. It allows me to discover the incredible nature of each country, especially around Asia and South America. 

Cactus Cereus peruvianus « spiralis » -Tillandsia Xerographica -Prèle Equisetum hyemale / Watercolour on paper

Fan. Let’s talk about Brazil …

F.G. It was a wonderful experience! In my drawing lessons I met Yvonne, who is half Brazilian and half Eastern European. Through her I was able to set off on a boat, following in the footsteps of the British botanist Margaret Mee. Gilberto, the boat’s captain, worked with her and knows a huge amount about the natural world.

Margaret Mee’s flowers are simply beautiful! She made forty trips to the region and spent her final years there. There are photos of her on all fours, doing her drawings on the floor or sitting on a tree trunk. Her works are extraordinarily large. If you are ever in London, I urge you to go and see them at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, which is the temple for botanical artists from all over the world.

During our trip, we saw sloths, all kinds of birds, pink dolphins… Every morning we got off the boat in search of plants and in the afternoon we had drawing lessons with Dulce Nascimento, a well-known botanical artist from Brazil. I was living the dream! For ten days I was able to spend my time combining all my passions: drawing, observation, nature and the exoticism of travel.

Passiflora Caerulea / Watercolour on paper

Fan. And you’ve written all about that trip on your blog. It really made us want to find out more about Margaret Mee, and we’re going to be looking into her and her work for another article. Thank you, Florence, for this fascinating conversation. We’ll keep on following your work as an ambassador for nature. Good luck and see you soon!

Translated from French by Ruth Simpson

If you’d like to learn more about Florence Gendre, here are some links to her treasures ▾

To read:
French blog
Florence Gendre Illustrations

To follow:
Social Medias

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