Mathieu Le Lay has been a French director and cinematographer since 2008. After he graduated from a wildlife conservation program at the University of Salford (UK), his passion for cinema, nature and wildlife led him to a one-year study at IFFCAM, the French wildlife film school.
He has a personal style and a visual poetry that feeds the soul with images of rare beauty and a feeling of freedom. His art and his intimate quest to nature are strongly connected. Guided by wild environments and mysterious atmospheres, his films tell genuine stories about the interaction between humans and nature, inspiring people to travel, discover and feel the raw subtlety of the world.
With special interest in nature and adventure topics, Mathieu has directed independent films, wildlife documentaries and a series of portrait documentaries focused on the work of creative people. In the past decade, he has received several recognitions in international film festivals and collaborated with prestigious clients, including National Geographic, Mountain Hardwear, Destination Canada, Ball Watch, Land Rover, and Ushuaïa Beauté.
« I believe I started to connect with Paul at the perfect time. We had been following each other’s work for a little while when I contacted him in early January 2016. Paul was immediately very enthusiastic to the idea of making a film focused on his approach to astrophotography, as well as on his family life, especially to show how he balances his passion for photography with his responsibilities as a young father. Through an intimate approach like any of my previous films, In the Starlight explores his creative life and how parenthood makes it even more challenging on a day-to-day basis. His story brings attention to a family life well-lived, while still enjoying a true passion and regularly going on adventures.
The new challenge in making this film was to partly shoot it during the darkest hours of the day in order to document his astrophotography work.
Beyond his outstanding photography, I think his work always visually defines and expresses what’s the sense of wonder and adventure. I admire his photography approach and his strong desire to connect back people with their natural environment.
On a very personal side of the experience, I am not a father yet, so I have learned a lot from his own experiences. One more motivation before shooting this film is that I’d never seen the northern lights in my life. I sure got my fill of that.»
From the peaks of the Canadian Rockies to iceberg-laden seas off the coast of Greenland, Paul’s journey to capture the “under-documented” is a testament to his passion for exploration, his creative vision and fierce sense of determination. These qualities, combined with his keen eye for unique compositions, have resulted in an exhaustive portfolio of cutting-edge images.
Whether it’s wading waist-deep into a glacier fed lake or chasing auroras from dusk til dawn, Paul is known for an adventurous spirit that draws him to the extraordinary. Highlighting his collection are his signature self-portraits, a wide range of mountain adventure images and compelling landscapes from around the globe.
Passionate about passing on his love for photography, in June 2016 he and fellow photographer Dave Brosha launched OFFBEAT, a new company that features an online community for photographers, as well as workshops in far-flung locations. He is also the Photo Editor for Crowfoot Media Inc., curating images each year for their premier publication, the Canadian Rockies Annual.
Paul’s images have been featured in a variety of publications, including Maclean’s, National Geographic Adventure, Alpinist, Huffington Post, The Guardian, Canadian Geographic, Islands, PhotoLife, Fodors.com and explore magazine. His client list includes leading national and global brands such as Apple, Dell, Arc’Teryx, lululemon athletica, Panasonic, MEC and Canon.
Paul lives in Banff, Alberta, with his wife, writer Meghan J. Ward, and their 5-year-old, Mistaya.
« I always thought I was fairly dedicated to my craft. Then, I met Mathieu on the Greenlandic icecap, carrying an incredible amount of gear through the harshest conditions, yet making a point to stop every time something would catch his eye.
Mathieu's commitment to his project is unparalleled, and has been incredibly inspiring for me, as I met up with him in a variety of wild, far-flung locations since the initial Greenland expedition. I saw for myself how Mathieu has created such powerful, relatable films; his approach is fully immersive. That's what gives his films their gritty, honest feel. I certainly hope that comes through In The Starlight.
It was truly an honour to share this adventure with such a gifted artist. »