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Ariane 5 as seen by Raúl and Charly, photographers for ArianeGroup 02-08-2023 | 4 minutes
The photographers Raúl and Charly were invited by ArianeGroup to Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to capture the Ariane 5 launch that took place on December 13, 2022. Here we report on this first collaboration with these two talented photographers who tell us about their experience.
Hello Raúl and Charly. Please tell us about yourselves and your style.
Raúl: I’m Raúl Cabrera. After training as an architect, I am now a photographer, video artist and creative director. I would describe my style as sober, geometrical, and minimalist. I like to represent some of my ideas with as few things as possible.
Charly: My name is Charly Gigonnet, and I’m a photographer and filmmaker known as Charly G. I’d say that I especially try to tell stories in both my photos and my films. Lately, my work has tended towards a cinematic style.
How do you take the perfect picture?
Raúl: Each photo is unique and there is no real perfect picture in photography. But to me, the most important thing is striking the right balance in the composition of the photograph. By that, I mean choosing the most essential elements of the scene to create an uncluttered structure together with the light and geometry.
Charly: I’m fascinated by how light behaves, whether it is natural or artificial. I often find that I have to pause a film just to admire the light in a scene. So, my eyes are always looking for something based on light and what’s going on around it.
Tell us about your trip to the spaceport.
Kourou – French Guiana
Charly: It was absolutely incredible. In a way, everything was new to me, I mean in terms of the approach to photography and the visual discovery. It was a mind-blowing experience for both Raúl and me for the whole ten days.
Raúl: The first building we visited was the Ariane 6 assembly hall. When the doors opened to reveal the launcher, we could feel the whole team’s emotion because it is only shown on very rare occasions.
@ArianeGroup @Raúl Cabrera – Ariane 6 on its launch pad
A few days later, everything was dominated by the timing of the Ariane 5 launch. We visited the Jupiter control room to document the various teams who remotely control the operations and the launch zone. We were also able to take pictures of Ariane 5 when it left the final assembly building (BAF) and was transferred to the launch pad. We felt so lucky to see and be able to capture Ariane 5’s last moments before it headed off into space. It was quite an experience!
Ariane 5 on the launch pad, @Charly G
How did the launch of Ariane 5 go off?
Raúl: On the day of the launch, all the teams at the spaceport were totally focused on one thing, the launch. The atmosphere was tense, especially as far as I’m concerned, because I didn’t want to miss a single thing. I had always wanted to see a launch live, but being able to take pictures of it for ArianeGroup was just out of this world. The lift-off was incredible. It all happened so fast. I managed to capture the launcher just as it lifted off, and then I took a few moments to take in the sight while I got my breath back.
Charly: We were split into two groups. Raúl’s team went to the Toucan site, which is the closest viewing site to the launch pad, to capture the launch by the usual procedure, and I went onto the beach to take shots of the launch from a more ‘cultural’ perspective. People get together to watch the lift-off like they would a football match, it’s quite crazy. And I was really able to capture their admiration when the Ariane rocket actually lifted off.
How did you feel at that very moment?
Raúl: Watching a rocket launch is not just about what you see, but what you hear too. A few seconds before lift-off, I can remember how the din made by the crowd suddenly stopped and there was complete silence. The control center’s countdown starts… then I can picture the launcher taking off and a deep noise I had never heard before getting louder and louder. You can actually feel all the vibrations.
Charly: It all takes place very fast and I didn’t stop shooting for a whole three minutes. Then my brain had to try and figure out what had just happened. It was the first time I saw something other than a plane or a helicopter in the sky. The launcher goes so fast, it’s like something out of a sci-fi movie. Honestly, it’s beyond description. One of the best memories of my whole life.
More photos coming soon on ArianeGroup’s social media channels