Christian’s grandfather worked for the New York Times, and a young Christian quickly fell in love with taking photos.
“My parents said to me that my first priority was to study, get a diploma and then I can do what I want. When I told my mother that I wanted to be photographer, she didn’t like the idea at all,” he said.
Christian, now based in Phuket, began his photographic career in 1984 after a failed attempt at studying architecture in Paris. His photos of a gallery bomb attack in Paris in 1986 were published in Paris Match magazine. They also graced the cover of Time magazine.
Since 1995, Christian has worked as a freelance photographer and still sells his pictures directly to many newspapers and magazines, such as Time, Der Spigel, Paris Match,VSD, and for the French magazine Geo, as well as publications in Egypt, Canada, Mali,Turkey, Cuba, and Italy.
“Working as freelancer is better in terms of the income because photo agencies in Paris usually take about 60 per cent and give only 40 to the photographers. But when you are a freelancer you get it all,” he said.
Since first winning international recognition with his Paris bombing images, Christian has covered major international events and conflicts, traversing the globe to places including Romania, Iran, Kurdistan, Yugoslavia, Armenia/Karabakh, and Chechnya.
It’s taken a lot of committment though, with Christian even having to travel to Iran the day after his wedding to take photos.
Christian said the war in Vukovar City in Croatia in 1991 was one of the worst points in his career, and one which shocked him.
“I had to stay there for three weeks with a reporter to cover the war. It was shocking for me because the war happened during Christmas time while other people were celebrating. Croatia is just one hour away from Paris – it was difficult for me to see children, women and people killed while Parisian people were enjoying Christmas,” he said.
“The most difficult time for me was when I found a man who caught another man and wanted to kill him. I told him to stop but he said to me that it’s not my business, my job is to take the photo, and that I should hurry up and take it. I couldn’t do anything else except take the photos with the man posing as a model. When I finished my job, he killed that poor man in front of my eyes,” Christian said.
As he has grown older he has steered away from hard news events like protests and wars, but has not lost his curiosity for news.
Being a photographer has given him life experience and a good income, but Christian said he does not believe in becoming a photographer for the money.
“Technology has advanced a lot. Everyone now has mobile phones and they can take pictures immediately when things happen in front of their eyes. Many newspapers don’t mind about the photo quality, what they want is an image quickly, which they can get from anyone else these days,” he said.
“For me, being a photographer helped me expand my world. I saw new people, discovered different places, and new cultures. That’s the best part of my career,” he said.