Friday, March 21, 2014

Remi's story in National Geographic magazine!


Have you ever had a dream that took a long time to come true? Or maybe you are still on the path?

Today is a very big day, one that has been over three years in the making. 

I am so very excited to tell you that my love, Remi Benali, has his first story for National Geographic magazine in the April 2014 issue. Worldwide.


Remi has been a professional photographer for 25 years. He started as a sports photographer with the prestigious Gamma Agency and covered five Olympic Games. He changed paths to start shooting magazine stories and became interested in National Geographic magazine's aesthetic and high-level quality during a three year stint as a foreign correspondent in New York City. Along the way, he was published in many of the world's most prestigious magazines such as Life (his photograph of "Dolly the cloned sheep" was chosen as one of the "100 pictures of the century"), Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, the Sunday Times, Le Figaro Magazine, Paris-Match, Stern, Geo, El Mundo and La Repubblica. Often, he would receive the same feedback: "We love your work but tell me, why aren't you working for National Geographic?"

He has voyaged to over 80 countries on five continents and became a specialist in tribes, traditions and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Starting in 1998, several of his stories were presented to the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C. - including his impressive work on "The Marble of the Taj Mahal" - and he had several near misses. But they were misses. It was disheartening. 

In 2005, we chose to leave Paris in order to make Arles, a small town in Provence, our home base. At the time, we were working extensively together as a writer-photographer team and were frequently on the road. But then the economic crisis hit in 2008 and the press took an enormous hit. Our travels slowly trickled to a halt. That same year, several incredible finds were made in Arles during archeological digs in the Rhône River.


One of the most impressive was the discovery of a 31 meter-long (just over 100 feet) intact boat from the Roman era. It took several years to acquire the financing to bring up such an impressive object. In 2011, the Musée départemental Arles antique was ready to take on the 8 million Euros project with the support of the region's Conseil Général for the launch of Opération Arles-Rhône 3. 


Remi (seen in the white hard hat above), along with two underwater photographers, Lionel Roux and Teddy Seguin, was awarded a government contract to document the entire process. Opportunity was knocking. 

After having searched the world over, the story that he had been waiting for was found...in his own backyard. 

National Geographic said, "Yes."


The boat, which was beautifully preserved due to being in a river as opposed to being exposed to harmful amoebas in the sea, was cut into ten sections underwater that were individually lifted up to the surface. Having been present at several of these occasions, I can tell you it was a nail-biting experience each time for all involved.


After having been brought up to the light of day, each section then needed to be treated. The renovation process was extensive, included being heated with non-radioactive gamma rays to solidify the structure of the wood. Each original iron nail was removed and replaced. Additionally, the thousands of objects that were found during the archeological dig - from giant statues to minuscule gold rings - were categorized and restored. Remi followed the entire process.


Within his contract was the possibility to photograph one of the museum's masterpieces, which was also discovered in the Rhône in 2007.


This bust of Julius Caesar is believed to be the only one in existence that was carved during his lifetime. I was able to assist Remi on this photo shoot and it was absolutely thrilling to be literally nose to nose with such a masterpiece of Roman art. 


But that was nothing compared to the night at the very, very end of the three year-long process when he photographed the boat, now reassembled in a new wing especially built within the museum, for a panoramic shot that was a great technical challenge. For six and a half hours, we were in near darkness. Alone. I am happy to say that the resulting photograph is the opening gatefold of the article, especially as Remi had conceived the image even before the boat had been lifted out of the water. He made it happen. Wait until you see it...it is stunning.


On October 5th, 2013, the Roman boat of Opération Arles-Rhône 3 was presented to the public in an opening ceremony.


The crowds were impressive...


...everyone wanted to see and understand the boat which had already been labelled a "National Treasure" by the French government.

But where was Remi? Was he swanning about? Resting on his laurels?


Hardly. He spent the evening secured up on a perch above the crowd to shoot a long exposure photo that was also one of his specially conceived ideas. The masses swirling around the boat were eventually transformed into one blur of a wave that buoyed it back to life! That photo can now be seen on billboards throughout the region as it was used as the poster for the opening exhibition.


When the crowds left that evening - amidst a great thunderstorm that felt fitting somehow - we both had an awareness that the boat had been delivered to port and that the story was nearing its end. 


Remi then went through an extensive and incredibly thorough process in conjunction with his editor on the story. Photographs were selected, abandoned, questioned and every last fact was verified. Finally, the layout came together. The first time that I saw the pdf version of it with Remi's name up top, I cried. I think that we both did, actually.


The day before yesterday, we had a Fedex delivery from Washington. The magazine, which has been so gracious throughout, sent us five copies of the April issue. It will be available in 170 countries in English plus in 60 countries in an additional 38 languages.  To hold it in our hands and know that 40 million readers all over the world will soon be seeing it feels slightly unreal.

Through hard work, tenacity, talent and vision, Remi made his dream of working for the National Geographic magazine come true.

Bravo, coeur. Je t'aime et je suis tellement fiere de toi...


Only one song can express how I feel today:


Turn it up and let's pop open the champagne!


 Can't wait a moment longer? You can see the story at National Geographic online by clicking here.

But please do go buy the magazine! I am going to be asking for photos of the different international versions from you soon...it should be reaching subscribers from March 20th or so and on newsstands by the end of the month.

To see five excellent videos (in English) about the lift-up process, please click here.

For mes lecteurs francophones, the story has already been published in three separate editions of the French version of National Geographic. To see more, please click here.

To discover more of Remi's images for the Arles-Rhône 3 story, click here.

To learn more about his photography, please be so kind as to click below:



As always, all of the photos in this post were taken by me (and some even with my scrappy iphone) - trust me this is not the quality of National Geographic or Remi's work... :) 


Thank you for your support and have a wonderful weekend everyone!

60 comments:

Vickie Lester said...

Yeah! Let me be among the first to say, "Hat's off to Remi! Congratulations!' I got chills (the good kind) reading this!

david terry said...

Oh, Heather?.........as Flannery O'Connor (who had more than plenty of reasons to grow discouraged in this life) would say to her mother when one of her stories was accepted for publication?........

"Cheers and Screams!!!!"

fondly, and please give my congratulations to Mister Britches (I re-hung, just yesterday, the three "Benali"s we have here in Ye Olde North Carolina),

David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Marsha Splenderosa said...

HEATHER & REMI !!!
This is just so fabulous. Remi, good job in persevering on your dream. I know how happy you must be with your success in this venture. Heather, of course, I will buy many copies as soon as I can find it at Barnes & Noble. Everyone I know will receive a copy. This is just so brilliant. And, what a story, what a story. The human interest factor is enormous, as well as this discovery. Big congratulations !

Marsha Splenderosa said...

HEATHER & REMI !!!
This is just so fabulous. Remi, good job in persevering on your dream. I know how happy you must be with your success in this venture. Heather, of course, I will buy many copies as soon as I can find it at Barnes & Noble. Everyone I know will receive a copy. This is just so brilliant. And, what a story, what a story. The human interest factor is enormous, as well as this discovery. Big congratulations !

La Contessa said...

WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!!!!!!OFF TO find it and BUY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Michel said...

Congratulations to Remi. Very cool! I can't wait to pick it up at the newsstand. We shall have to make a visit to the museum when we finally hook up in Arles.

Maywyn Studio said...

Bravo! Congratulations Remi!
A perfectly wonderful post of Very exciting news, Thank you Heather
I will be buying a copy for sure, with an extra.

Kristin said...

Beautiful story, Heather! Congratulations, Remi! After so many years, this recognition is that much sweeter!

Mardi Michels said...

That's absolutely amazing :) Congrats to Remi!

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Wowza! I adore nat geo and have been reading since I was a kid. I can't wait to see his work. Congratulations!

Ann Mah said...

Hoooooooorraaaayyyyyy!!!!! I will be haunting the news stand until I can my hands on a copy. Bravo, Remi! Bravo, Heather! This is a wonderful achievement to celebrate!!! And WHAT a STORY!

Jo-Anne said...

Wow. How utterly fabulous! Beautifully done, a wonderful story. Well done, both of you :)

D A Wolf said...

Bravo indeed! Reading this gave me chills! I can hardly wait to see the magazine. Incredible.

Loree said...

Heather this is such fantastic news - and the story behind it all is no less fascinating. That boat looks almost as good as new. I can only imagine the work and dedication that the whole project took.

Mumbai said...

This is a real highlight in both of your life and as I always promised...after rain follow sunshine. A loud "yes you did it". Congratulation to Remi and you Heather, for being a brave and always supportive woman.

bloggingfromthemas said...

Heather and Remi
Congratulations on this wonderful achievement!!! I can't wait for my issue of National geographic to arrive. I am so excited for you both!
Judy

Lorrie said...

Fabulous! I'll be looking for the NG issue here. What a great project to document, in your own backyard!

Teresa Maria said...

Vraiment crème de la crème, ton Rémi! I am so happy for him and for you, too!!

Maywyn Studio said...

Oh my word, Caesar looks like Daniel Craig.

Bill Facker said...

Heather, please pardon me for jumping directly to the comments section after reading that Remi is published in National Geographic. As a little boy I spent hours and hours with that wonderful magazine and I do believe that publication was one of the major factors to my wanderlust. What a stupendous acheivement, Remi .. Congratulations from one who is truly filled with awe at your achivement. And Heather .. never to forget that behind every man's great accomplishments is the woman whose love, patience, and belief in his capabilities carries him to success. Not to forget the beauty and success of your own endeavors, which are equally as rare and beautiful ... but today is Remi's day ... so again, Heather, please pardon me for jumping directly to the comments section after reading that Remi is published in National Geographic. You Two Rock! Aloha!

krayolakris said...

Fantastic!! Congratulations Remi, for following your dream! Bravo to you both! This story makes me cry! I shall renew my NG subscription tonight!!

Marielle said...

Congratulations Remi. Such an interesting excavation. Being involved with artfacts from Roman times, so closely involved, is unfathomable. Right place. Right time. Vision and talent.

robin said...

HOO-RAY and CONGRATULATIONS, REMI!!! Soooo happy that this long awaited day has arrived; I can't wait to get my hands on a copy! Sister, what a beautiful tribute! Your love and pride are so apparent, and I'm so happy and proud for the two of you! "Happy", indeed!! : )

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

Passion, talent and patience have finally delivered Remi his well deserved reward. Congratulations Remi for your beautiful, detailed photography and for fulfilling a life long dream. And also to you Heather, as together you enable each other to flourish (which has been apparent to anyone who follows your blog.) Bises
P.S. I have watched each of the linked videos, visited the National Geographic website (wow), listened to Happy and sipped champagne in Remi's honour during lunch today!

mademoisella coquine. said...

I'm a bit relieved that you guys cried (of course you did) because I'm all choked up over here! What a story, what a journey....wow. Congratulations!!!

jacqueline rostron said...

What a tale! Congratulations to Remi for his brilliant photos, you must be so proud of him! Thank you for all the links to the archeological "dig", they are absolutely fascinating. I lived in the area at the time of the discovery of Caesar's bust, it was so exciting to find such a realistic portrait of him, but the boat is the crowning glory! Arles is such an incredible town, you almost feel "Caesar's Vast Ghost" around you, its history is omnipresent. I also love the Alyscamps cemetery, so atmospheric and peaceful. Oh, to be a fly in the wall back in Roman days, just for a moment, just to see what it was like! (Probably vicious and cruel, I might be very disappointed!) Thank you and Remi again, can't wait to buy the National Geographic this month!

vicki archer said...

Huge Congratulations and a big bravo to Remi.... he is an extraordinary photographer.... What took NG so long... ;) ;)
Seriously... David started a collection of National Geographics in 1963... he has every one in his office in France... they are his pride and joy... so he will be most chuffed to know of Remi's contribution this month...

Again... big kisses and hugs to your fabulous Remi... xv

Julia said...

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Jackie and Joel Smith said...

We celebrate with you as well. As all of us who write and photograph know, the rejections can serve to make us give up dreams of that one publication milestone or strengthen our resolve to reach it. Glad to read that Remi had his dream come true. (And your pride in his work is evident in every sentence you've written - you two are a perfect team!) Hugs, Jackie

Suze said...

Heather this is absolutely momentous! A crowning joy. I am so, so happy as something like this could not have happened to the partner of a sweeter, kinder, lovelier soul. I tip my hat and lift my cup to your Remi, whose ship finally sailed in. :)

Judi of Little House said...

This is a life changing event! Congratulations to Remi and I just love to 'hear' the pride in your 'voice.' It is an amazing assignment, what a labor of engineering, aesthetics, mathematics, artistic design - this has it all!!!! We are staying in Arles for just two days in May and would love to go to the museum - if we ran into you or Remi, icing on the cake! Can you tell me if the exibit will be there then, or is it temporary? And, the name of the musee, please? Going next door now, neighbor is a subscriber - I can't wait to get my own copy of the mag!

I Dream Of said...

Oh, I love a good dream-come-true story! Heather, this is just wonderful and I couldn't be more thrilled for Remi and for you. How wonderful to see his talent, hard work and vision be rewarded in such a powerful way. Gives me chills. I'm quite proud of you both. Can't wait for our copy to arrive - I will be checking the mailbox daily in anticipation and will proudly point out the photos to my parents when they get theirs! I'll make sure Heidi and Angel know too - I think Penelope will find the story very interesting.

Congratulations and many, many bisous! XOXO

PS- I toasted you two last night with a bottle of rosé Cremant (any excuse, but this was a really good reason to pop a bottle with a dear girlfriend for Friday happy hour! ;-)

Heather Robinson said...

Heeheehee. Caesar is reborn as Bond? Hmmm...

Heather Robinson said...

Loree, I wish that you could see it! There is absolutely no way that it looks 2000 years old. It is amazing.

Heather Robinson said...

I have to give you credit...you were right! :)

Heather Robinson said...

Mahalo Nui Loa, Bill! :) I think that National Geographic is responsible for opening up the world for so many of us...may we respect and treasure what we learn and see. Merci beaucoup for your kind and heartfelt thoughts,
H & R

Heather Robinson said...

Happy tears, I hope! :)

Heather Robinson said...

Marielle, it still gives me chills to think about all that they found. In the river! Delicate glass like you wouldn't believe...and yes, there is definitely something of the "meant to be" in this...

Heather Robinson said...

Love you Sister!

Heather Robinson said...

Et voila EE, if we gave you reason to have some champers at lunch, then that is a good thing! ;)
Bisous...

Heather Robinson said...

I feel the same way, Jacqueline...there are definitely moments when the walls DO talk...I can almost feel it...but yes, as with the Feria, it can be all too cruel.
I hope that you enjoyed your time living in Arles...our paths probably crossed many a time!

Heather Robinson said...

Wow! Remi's only goes back to 1981 so David has him beat! But he loves them too and we have to find room for them for every move.
xo!

Heather Robinson said...

Judi, the museum is the Musee Departemental d'Arles Antique. It is on all of the maps so you won't have trouble finding it - just walk down the quay of the Rhone all the way and you are there! And it is a permanent exhibit - enjoy. The objects are fascinating too.

And keep an eye out for a redhead walking two Goldens - if so, that is me and say Hi!

Heather Robinson said...

Hooray! How lovely...makes me happy as punch (or cremant) to know that our little celebration is continuing half way around the world. And give my love to Heidi, Angel and the girls please! What a lovely family. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much, friend. A crowning joy indeed.

simpleimages2 said...

Excellence and patience garner the prize of affirmation. Opportunities abound but great opportunities are few. Remi, at last, received both. The excitement was the experience, the participation in magnificent undertakings, the rare times when time seems to stand still.
Happiness can be stunning particularly in rarefied level that you and Remi have experienced.
I can imagine you dancing in the sidewalk with Happy music of Pharrell Williams in the air before or after the champagne. I’m very happy for you and Remi.
The photographs in National Geographic are magnificent. I love his photographs of Sri Lanka and the Western Sahara and the children of Bhutan.I have to look at the other places.
Tears of joy for the the splendid accomplished and recognition from the other artists and editors. Tears of joy for a beginning of more important works ahead.
Congratulations to Remi and to you, his talented collaborator.

helen tilston said...

Dear Heather and Remi

My heartfelt congratulations on your achievement. Brava. Being featured in National Geographic is a supreme honour but also that the project was on of such scope, scale and interest is marvelous. I hope you take a well deserved holiday and celebrate.

Helen xx

joyful17 said...

Bravo! What a wonderful achievement! How fortunate I am to be able to share this with you and Remi through your amazing blog.
I too have treasured many National Geographic Mags....and will happily add this to my collection!

Bebe said...

That is a wonderful story, well told. Congratulations to you both. Archaeology is fascinating and to have the opportunity to work so closely on a project like that is amazing.I will be buying that issue

Silke Bauer said...

I really feel honored that I was so lucky to have just recently seen both the boat and the caesars bust. And walking through Arles, seeing the advertisings for the exhibition I knew any of those Photos could be made by your Remi.
Great that you were part of such an exciting event. And I was espescially happy that I catched a little glimpse of all that.
And talking about that black gatefold: Obviously I am constantly revieling my ignorance: It is actually a photograph! Great! Congratulations to Remi!
You are both on such a good adventure–together. Keep on going and trust!
Bisous,
Silke
Since I bought the french copy in the museum I will also buy the english and german copy to be able to compare! (:

Judith Ross said...

Oh I am so happy for you and Remi. Congratulations! Must admit that I, too, had a tear in my eye when I reached the end of this post. I will most definitely be buying a print of this issue. Cheers!!

Marilyn said...

Felicitaions!! Was looking for a special reason to subscribe, and here it is. What a resume.

Francine Gardner said...

This is a wonderful story of perseverance, talent and hope.I am so thrilled for you both and so hope to come to Arles to see these treasures…and visit you. To be in National Geographic is truly the height of one's career and what an amazing inspiration you are!

Meredith said...

This was fascinating to read and so inspiring! Congratulations to Remi, but also you - his biggest supporter!

Judi of Little House said...

I will of course do that! And, if you see me, une femme d'un certain age!, with my red-headed sister-in-law, and my hubby, it just might be with us wondering tourists - but after the elections you talked about today, my husband may just stay inside! He has long hair he wears in a pony tail - might not be too welcome in light of the righty-tighties!) I just don't get that 'hateful' stance. We're all retired so we will be the elder folks limping along the quay! But, we're still getting out there and seeing the world, and trying to be hopeful! We'll be in Arles May 29 & 30. A petit rendezvous would be sweet!

Judi of Little House said...

I will of course do that! And, if you see me, une femme d'un certain age!, with my red-headed sister-in-law, and my hubby, it just might be with us wondering tourists - but after the elections you talked about today, my husband may just stay inside! He has long hair he wears in a pony tail - might not be too welcome in light of the righty-tighties!) I just don't get that 'hateful' stance. We're all retired so we will be the elder folks limping along the quay! But, we're still getting out there and seeing the world, and trying to be hopeful! We'll be in Arles May 29 & 30. A petit rendezvous would be sweet!

Julie Mautner said...

YAY!!! What else can I say? You know how this project has thrilled me since I first heard...
xx

breadispain.me said...

This is so amazing! A huge congratulations to Remi and you both. Perseverance and hard work and keeping your eye on the prize - I love seeing it pay off in such an exciting way.

Also - I can't wait to read the article and see all the pictures - totally fascinating. I am sending this to my sister who is a latin teacher immediately!

gillian mcguire said...

This is such a touching post, so filled with love. I am choked up reading it. I will be on the hunt for my copy here in Rome. Bravi to you both!

Sara Louise said...

My heart is bursting for you!!! x