The Montier Photo Festival of wild animal photography, the largest in Europe, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this November.
Held in and around Montier-en-Der (Haute-Marne) an hour north-east of Troyes by car, it is expected to attract more than 45,000 visitors this year.
The festival was inspired by the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
“Twenty-five years ago, a bunch of mates held a wildlife photography competition here and it attracted 4,000 visitors over two days.
“We were amazed and that is when the annual festival was founded. It is held for four days over the third weekend of November,” says festival director Christophe Pereira.
2,500 images on display
The festival is held in 16 different venues all around Montier, each one hosting exhibitions by up to 35 different photographers, depending on the size and location of the venue.
In total 2,500 images, representing the work of a hundred photographers, are on display for the four days of the festival.
The festival is held in 16 different venues all around Montier; Photo: Sylvain Jolibois
The festival also includes a competition, for which it receives around 20,000 entries each year from all around the world.
The jury then whittles these down to 80 or so of the best shots, and 15 prizes are awarded; the grand prix and prizes in various categories, are provided by various sponsors.
Photo walks and dawn outings
“One of the big features of the festival is that the public can meet and talk with the photographers. Everyone whose work is exhibited is physically present at the festival. It’s a very social networking event,” says Mr Pereira.
“We work very hard to make sure everyone feels welcome, and that there are attractions for everyone.”
Visitors can take part in talks and demonstrations; Photo: Sylvain Jolibois
He says that over the years, many friendships and working partnerships have been formed at the festival, the organisation of which relies on the contribution of around 400 volunteers.
“The identity of the festival is conviviality. You feel that very strongly over the weekend of the festival. As well as exhibitions, there are also talks, round-tables, projections, workshops, and demonstrations.
“People can get advice, try equipment out and also buy equipment. There are also photo walks, and a dawn outing to photograph the cranes taking off across the lake as the sun rises.”
Environmental issues tackled
It’s a family event, he says, with lots of games and children’s attractions.
“There are many beautiful wildlife photos on display, in categories including wild birds, wild mammals, other wild animals, wild plants, graphics – form and matter of nature, and still image sequences.
“The festival also touches on more sombre topics like the destruction of the planet, diminishing biodiversity, global warming, waste disposal, and the results of human actions on nature. We choose photos which treat these subjects very intensely.”
Boost to tourism
The Tourist Office helps organise accommodation for all the visitors, in hotels, gites, B&Bs, and camping cars.
“As the festival has grown, so has its economic value to the region. It is estimated that it brings around €5million into the area every year in terms of spending on accommodation, eating out, shopping and sightseeing.
“It also showcases the area, which is very beautiful, very green and natural with a huge variety of flora and fauna to photograph.”
This year the festival honours American photojournalist Steve McCurry, famous for his image of an Afghan girl with piercing green eyes.
The Festival Photo Montier takes place from Thursday November 17th to Sunday November 20th 2022 and tickets are available on the website.
The competition is open to all photographers. Entries for next year should be submitted in March/April 2023.