Stephanie & Nicolas

When I saw the work these two fine photographers were producing, I was immediately hooked. I love documentary photography that captures the human condition.

Another reason I wanted profile Stephanie and Nicolas is because I have the utmost respect for people that dedicate their lives to their craft. Selling everything you own to trek the planet with your camera is a fantasy very few people get to experience.

I hope these two inspire at least one person to do the same and bring us great photos.

Name: stephanie borcard & nicolas metraux
Web Site:

Tell the CR Readers a bit about yourself.
Hello, we’re stephanie borcard & nicolas metraux from Switzerland. we’re 32 and live in a small town called Fribourg. We live together since 10 years already, no marriage and no kids so far!

We discovered a common passion for photography while traveling to Iceland in 2006. This passion has driven us to quit our jobs, sell our car and leave for a 2 and a half-year long trip.

We spent almost one year in India, 6 months in China and visited Turkey, Mongolia, Japan, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia. We came back from this journey in December 2008 and are now about to start a new trip.

Music: well, we love Jazz. We listen to Coltrane, Miles, Richard Galliano, Nils Petter Molvaer, but also Jay-Jay Johnson, Tom Waits and Saul Williams.

Windsurfing is our favorite sport. We run and hike quite often. Switzerland is a hikers paradise!

Sulphur Mining in the Toxic Fumes

Photography Influences:
Photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Don McCullin, René Burri, Werner Bischof, Eliott Erwitt and Steve McCurry are those that opened us the windows to photography. Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon, is a wonderful source of inspiration. His pictures, movies and texts are very personal and often describe his own feelings.

At the exhibition of the 2009 Pictet Awards, we discovered the work of Nadav Kander, an Israeli photographer living in London. We love his series on the Yangtze River. It is his aptitude to deliver a strong message with poetic images that inspire us most.

When did you first pick up a camera?
Photography is for both of us a long story. As a kid, steph used to play with her mothers Ricoh and unfortunately blocked the mirror! She also collected Ilfords calendars and spent entire days looking at these b/w pictures. Lindbergh, Bischof and Munkacsi accompany her childhood.

Nico’s grandfather was already fond of photography and used to collect all sorts of cameras. At the age of 14, nico took an old Voigtländer and shot his first black and white pictures.

What was your first digital camera?
It was only in 2004 that we bought our first digital camera, a Canon 350D.

Manifestation Free Tibet


Why documentary photography?
Documentary photography is a way to express our curiosity about life and its expressions, beyond cultural and language barriers.

We explore everyday social interactions while seeking to preserve their spontaneity. We question ourselves on the relation binding man to his environment.

Greatest place(s) you’ve shot?
5am in the Cambodian Jungle at the Ta Prohm temple, Angkor. Discovering this historical site at dusk was absolutely stunning! As the sun raised, we discovered the huge roots growing out of the ruins. The atmosphere was magical and we were really moved.

Any scary moments?
Being kidnapped by an old Chinese couple while hitchhiking from Mongolia to China.

Mother and Child on Tiananmen Square, Beijing

You two have other jobs, what are they?
Steph is a primary school teacher and nico is an architect.

Is the goal to do photography full time?
Yes, this would be the ultimate goal.

Is your photography funded by anyone or a program?
No, we work hard, save money, sell all we’ve got and leave. We did this in 2006 and about to do it again!


Any formal training in photography?

None… We’re totally self-taught.

Do any books or web sites stick out that helped you learn?

We didn’t use too much these “Practical Guides to Photography”. We prefer to analyze books of famous photographers like the ones cited before and we regularly visit painting exhibitions. This helps us to get a better understanding of the use of light, framing and composition. The larger our vision the better it is!

Recently we were looking at a documentary film about Jazz bassist Charles Mingus. Hearing him talking about his approach to improvisation gave us some new ideas about how to build a reportage.

The Sleep of the Rickshaw


Can you give aspiring documentary photographers some career advice?
In January 2008 we were in Bagan, Burma. We were coming back from a photo-shoot in a monastery when by chance we ran into Steve McCurry. He was leading a photography workshop. Seeing us walking with the cameras around our shoulder, he said: “You should be working!”. This was definitely the best advice we ever got!

What’s the biggest gaff you ever made?
Both of us were recovering from an amoebic dysentery in India and needed some rest. We were getting but also bored in our hotel room… nico decided to clean his 17-55mm lens when a sudden access of fever took him… he let the lens fall on the marble ground.

What’s the best decision you’ve ever made
To leave Switzerland and to travel around Asia.


Why Canon?
Well it’s like that…

What cameras & Lenses do you use?
We both use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Prime Lenses: 24mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4, 85 f/1.4 (we rarely use this lens)

Zoom Lenses: 16-35 f/2.8, 24-70 f/2.8

We do not use flashes.

What’s your favorite photography accessory other than your camera/lenses?
We recently bought ourselves an external microphone: a Sennheiser MKE 400. Otherwise we’re not so much into accessories, we like to stay simple.

If you could only have one lens, which would it be and why?
We’d use a 16-35 f/2.8 and a 24-70 f/2.8.

Describe your computer and software workflow.
We’re Mac users. We work with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Have you ever bought any gear you regretted 2 days later.
We bought a battery grip for a 30D… For us, it was useless. We sold it the next day.

Gear advice for people starting out?
Start with a simple camera: a 500D for example. When you reach its limits, change for a better one. Never save money on lenses!

Running with Durga

Random Stuff

Name one photographer you would like to take a portrait of?
Taking a picture of a photographer has no real interest for us. Instead, we would really love to meet the French photographer Raymond Depardon.

Name one public figure you would like to take a portrait of?
Tom Waits.

We’ve learned the most from
Trial and error. Thanks to digital cameras one can see his mistakes directly.

Something you’re still learning?
We’re learning to get a certain distance towards our photographs, to cut the emotional bonds. This helps to make a better editing. Nothing is ever granted, we’re always learning, trying to improve our skills.

What is your greatest fear?
To get the err99 message as we got on our 40D’s!

Something you’re saving up for?
We are saving up for flight tickets and self-sponsored reportages.

What photographic item do you wish you had designed?
A good photo backpack with laptop compartment that does not look like a parachute bag!

Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
Woman in the Dunes directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara & La Antena directed by Esteban Sapir.

Early Smoke

Thank you for sharing your words and photographs with Canon Rumors and our great readers.