Peli sat down for an interview with professional firefighter and photographer, Anthony Boutin to learn more about his two passions and how he was able to combine them into one.
PELI: Hi Anthony! You are a photographer and volunteer firefighter. Both require a high level of passion and you were able to combine both. How did you manage to do that? But first tell us why and when you became a volunteer firefighter.
AB: Hi! In 2006, I first started as a young firefighter in the Deux-Sevres department, in a small rescue centre called Arc en Sèvres. Four years later, in 2010, I became a certified firefighter and immediately thereafter, I committed as a volunteer firefighter in the same rescue centre. Later on, in 2012, I moved to the main rescue centre of the region, Poitiers Pont Achard. One year later, I finally joined the fire and rescue service of Neuville de Poitou where I am currently working and proudly hold the rank of Sergeant. I have always been keen and eager to help others, therefore, becoming a firefighter was obvious to me. It is a rewarding vocation. Time goes by and I am still passionate about my work. When you are passionate about what you do, you always find time to do it. I don’t feel like I am working when I take pictures.
PELI: When did you start taking pictures and how did you decide to combine both your firefighting profession and photography?
AB: I took my first pictures in 2014 simply because I wanted to give it a try. And soon I rapidly got the taste for it and was willing to do more and more. I wanted to shoot images of what I was passionate about, to capture firefighting operations in action and spread them on social networks to enhance the role of those men and women fighting fires and rescuing people. In 2016, I found out that the SDIS 86 (Service départemental d’incendie et de secours) had a section of photography and I decided to contact the Communication Manager to get more information. Since then I have been part of the fire photography team. We accomplish varied tasks like covering ceremonies, safety drills and many other rescue missions.
PELI: Would you consider yourself first a firefighter or a photographer? And why?
AB: I am primarily a firefighter even if I know how lucky I am to be also a fire photographer. For me, the rescue missions are most important than photography because when you operate on-site, safety always comes first.
PELI: Shooting during firefighting drills or especially during real-time action must be very challenging. What are the biggest challenges or aspects you need to keep in mind to take the right photo?
AB: My biggest challenge is to ensure the best and most iconic moments are captured during a rescue mission and make sure the images will be used to maximise experiences. I love capturing the look in my colleagues’ eyes while they are focussed on their mission, these pictures are great.
PELI: For a rescue mission, when do you bring your camera with you?
AB: As a fire photographer, I intervene at the request of the fire services communication centre or the Communication Manager on a specific or important mission where relevant pictures must be taken. I can work autonomously, or I am given directives by the fire operational commander. I must be quiet enough not to disturb the firefighters and make sure to avoid any pictures of the victims’ faces, which for me is simply a matter of respect. Each moment can be favourable when it comes to taking pictures. There can be lots of emotions at any time, joy and sadness in people’s eyes. Many things can happen in so little time and I must be ready and aware of what goes on around me.
PELI: What are you hoping to accomplish with your photography?
AB: As I am used to saying, my main purpose is to shed light on men and women working in the shadow. I would like at some point to create a book where I could gather all my best images.
PELI: You’ve taken thousands of firefighting photos. Do you have a personal favourite? Please explain the story behind it.
AB: I would say that I have one or even two favourite pictures. The first one was taken at night when there was a farm building on fire. As you can see in this image, a firefighter is in the foreground with a hose while the fire is raging in the background.
AB: The second image which I think is beautiful was taken during the Helmet Ceremony where father and daughter made eye contact with each other. There are lots of emotions in this image and that’s what I like.
PELI: You have a full-time job, you are a volunteer firefighter, and you are quite active on social media, especially on Facebook (@photosapeurspompiers). How should we imagine an ordinary day in your life?
AB: Indeed, my days are full. I start at 7 AM by checking what is new on my social media networks. Then, I have breakfast and go to work until midday. During the lunch break, I get the new posts for my Facebook page ready. That way I maximise my time out there. I am back to work at 2pm until 4.30pm. When I arrive at home, I keep on working on my next Facebook posts to publish.
PELI: What PELI product(s) do you usually use as a firefighter and/or photographer and what equipment do you store in it?
AB: I use the PELI 1510 case. It follows me everywhere I go, in all my missions. I keep my photography gear inside and I know that it is safe and secure there. In the future, I am planning to buy some accessories like a memory card case and why not a bigger case.
AB: I am glad Peli trusts my work. I am looking forward to testing other products of the brand.
PELI: We are extremely pleased that you are a part of the Peli Pro Expert Team and are looking forward to many more years of collaboration. Thank you for your time.
Find more of Anthony's work on Instagram and Facebook.