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Antoine Franck : wildlife photographer and entomologist

Written by David JOSSEROND Modified on the

  • Station d'imagerie macroscopique du Cirad Réunion (© David Josserond)
  • Salticide-Plexippus paykulli (© Antoine Franck - Cirad)
  • Eruption explosive - Piton de la Fournaise (© Antoine Franck)
  • Enfants Malgaches (© S.Calizingue)

Through his work for CIRAD in Reunion, Franck Antoine has been able to combine his two main passions : photography and entomology. Profile...

A passion for entomology

In the early 1990s, after finishing his degree in Crop Protection, Franck Antoine left northern France for Reunion. At first, he was a CIRAD Réunion technician entomologist working on fruit flies. Soon, he became involved in other research projects, including trials of different trapping methods for fruit and vegetable flies, training other field technicians in insect recognition, pest collection and conservation (PRPV) and collecting spiders in the Mascarenes archipelago (Biotas). This fieldwork is complemented by laboratory research, where Antoine studies pest biology and behaviour. "The objective is to study the behaviour and biology of insects and act accordingly by providing appropriate response means to combat pests, whether conventional, integrated or organic, says Antoine. Not to mention the arrival of new pests in a given area, where we have to study the origin, damage caused or even auxiliary organisms".

Self-taught wildlife photographer

Franck Antoine is a self-taught photographer and readily describes a passion for photography, especially wildlife photography, which he discovered upon his arrival in Reunion, and today he exhibits his work regularly not just on this island but also at major international wildlife photography festivals, like last year at Montier En Der, France and soon in Namur, Belgium. "The landscapes of Reunion are a gift for photographers, he says. Also, when I arrived on the island, photography quickly became my passion, especially the Piton de La Fournaise". Since then, Antoine Franck has visited nearly thirty countries around the world enabling him to establish a personal library of over 30,000 photographs, and dedicates most of his free time to photography. "Photography is a very time-consuming activity. The photographer is constantly looking for the perfect shot, bringing together an interesting subject whilst concentrating on composition, a good dynamic and first and foremost a well-placed light.However, each field trip has not always been successful. Patience, persistence and luck are necessary qualities the photographer needs to capture a great image!"

"Often, agood picture is worth a thousand words"

Antoine Franck will also, over time and in parallel with his work as an entomologist, assist many Cirad researchers and technicians who need pictures to illustrate their research, publications or posters for scientific conferences. He will use his photographic talent to assist the field of insect research. "The field of entomology requires a large number of photographs, explains Antoine. Often, a good picture is worth a thousand words. Some taxonomists even predict a new way of seeing insects, far removed from a microscope through which often only part of the insect can be seen clearly, thus requiring the user to permanent adjust focus and other settings”. Indeed, the macro imaging station used by Antoine, unlike traditional photography, offers an unequaled field for photographing insects usually less than a millimeter long. "For each insect photographed (the insects are dead and inserted into its natural environment, between 20 and 100 images are taken and then assembled. Antoine then "magnifies the image by computer, without making any changes. Via software image editing, I work on the light intensity in certain areas, which has the effect of bringing out relief in the image. Such processes have existed for decades, but were carried out in the darkroom using masks, not on screen".

An image database for Indian Ocean pests

For over a year now, Antoine Franck has been working on an image bank, a database developed within the framework of the e-PRPV regional project. "This database will include mainly pests observed on a plant or in a particular geographical area, but also their damage and known control methods and auxiliaries." Entomological data will be reflected in Antoine’s photographs, and some of them will be on display next year in large format on the sea front of St Pierre, Réunion and at the Caudan Waterfront Port Louis, Mauritius during a biodiversity exhibition.

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