An inward journey on the Red Island


My journey on Madagascar has been quite the adventure right from the start!

Upon arriving on the island, also known as the Red Island, we embarked on what should have been two eight-hour car rides, on hazardous and stressful roads, and instead, we travelled for over 30 hours. The filming had not even yet begun.

Having finally reached our destination, a very sparse accommodation, the host’s warmth and hospitality made up for any lack of amenities. Little side note, if the thought of sharing your room with snakes or finding sand in your bed makes you uneasy, then this place might not be for you.

I may come across as complaining, but I am striving for transparency here. My aim is not to paint a picture-perfect image of every trip as the best experience of my life. Of course, there were numerous positive aspects to this journey, which left an enduring impact on me. However, it is equally important to convey the unvarnished reality of the trip. I want to truthfully portray the emotions and conditions that influence the creative process. After all, these elements are just parts of the pieces as the finished product itself.

With that said, let’s now shift our focus to the purpose of this project and the positive aspects!


The aim of this 52-minute documentary, was to film my encounter with the Mikea People, an indigenous group residing in the southwest of Madagascar, who is not officially recognized by the local government, leading to their displacement from their natural habitat, the Mikea Forest. We lived with them for five days, learning about their culture, with my goal being to take some portraits and create projections of these people, as I’ve done for my other adventures.

They currently live in the area between their historical homeland and the ocean. However, since they are not fishermen, they endure a two-hour daily trek to gather their livelihood near the now forbidden forest. With temperatures ranging between 40-45 degrees Celsius at this time of year, and water scarce in this dry forest, the struggle is real.

Mikea people are some of the gentlest ones I have ever met. Although the government chased them out of their homes and their new neighbors despise them, Mikeas keep smiling, without any revenge or any aggressive feeling. A true lesson of humanity. This is what I am looking at when I do such trips; it overtakes all the tiredness and the stress.

Now, for the photographic part, f you are reading this, you must be a little curious about it. My passion is meeting and shooting people. Therefore, to enable me to focus on the experience, my gear (as well as my technique) has to be flawless!

Family Portrait by photographer Philippe Echaroux
Portrait by photographer Philippe Echaroux

In Madagascar, I encountered two main challenges. Firstly, the heat. It was 45+ degree in the day. I was scared the lightning gear would overheat, but luckily, it didn’t. I used my faithful Elinchrom FIVE, my “best friend” for such adventures. It’s a big flash compared to the THREE or the ONE, but the power it has helps me handle any situations.

Another challenge I experienced, were the inevitable time constraints when shooting a documentary. Sometimes, photographers have to shoot the required portraits during periods when weather, light, or subject availability are not optimal. This is always a big challenge for me, and this particular trip was no exception.

To shoot my portraits, I used a Nikon Z8 with my usual 50mm 1.8 lens. The 50mm is THE portrait lens for me. I believe it gives a good social distance to speak with the people, and that is key to me.

When it comes to lighting, it was essential for me to travel light. For almost all of my portraits, I used the Rotalux Square Softbox 70cm (27″) due to its convenience when travelling. It is ideal for close-up portraits, and when combined with the power of the Elinchrom FIVE, it also allows me to illuminate a wider area while keeping the subject as the focal point of the light stream. In my opinion, it is an indispensable combination.

This crazy adventure surely didn’t started the best way, and it may have been one of the most difficult I experienced, but – and of course this is totally « cliché » to say – it was worth it. With time, I’ve learnt while I hate to start a trip already exhausted, this increases my sensibility to everything and mainly the good things. So, close your laptop, it’s time for you to start yours next adventure now!