Photographer for Agence France Presse, currently base in Nice. He is the winner of a World Press Photo award in the Nature category. He mainly photographs the film festivals in Cannes, Berlin and Marrakech.
You are a member of the circle of official photographers of the Monaco royal family; how much time to you devote to this part of your work?
On average, a hundred days a year are devoted to AFP photographic coverage of the Monaco family. It varies from a lot of posed photos in the Palais to those taken in motion when they attend ball evenings. We are generally given very little time, just a few seconds; you have to be very quick! At other events, we have a wider time frame, such as at horse jumping events where you can get some really good photos of Charlotte Casiraghi on her horse. As far as Princess Caroline is concerned, we often picture her alongside famous artists who are exhibiting in the Principality, given that she is very much involved in Monaco’s art world. The person we photograph the least is Princess Stéphanie; she only authorises her picture to be takenat national festival events and, above all, at the Festival International de Cirque, which is particularly dear to her heart.
Which are the recurring events that are the most important to follow?
There are three important annual evens in Monaco: the Bal de la Rose, the Bal de la Croix Rouge and the national holiday in November. The rest of the year is punctuated with small events, which are much less important in terms of current events, but which can turn out to be great opportunities for taking some lovely pictures, such as Prince Albert’s dive into the water, rather than his swim, at the Christmas event.
How many photographers follow the family full-time?
There are only a few of us accredited at the Palais, a dozen in total. We are part of official press agencies: AFP, REUTERS, GETTY, AP, EPA, SIPA and so on… Then, of course, there are the unofficial photographers, the paparazzi.
What are the necessary requirements in order to do the work you do?
In order to work at the palace, you have to show your accreditation, which can only be obtained by those belonging to a recognised and reputable press agency or to a prestigious magazine, such as Paris Match, or by being a famous photographer! Helmut Newton worked for many years with the royal family, especially with Princess Caroline.
Is there a particular dress code?
Absolutely, there is a required form of dress: a dark suit and tie must be worn to enter the palace. More generally, you must be well dressed and with a jacket, never in jeans!
What kind of equipment to you use most often?
For all photos taken from the palace square of appearances on the balcony, you work with large telephoto lenses, 500mm or 600mm, a bit like you would for the Pope from Piazza San Pietro. Otherwise, when you’re up close, you use easily managed lenses like the 24/70 or 70/200mm.
Which do you think are your most representative recent images?
Without a doubt, the latest very important event that I photographed was the inauguration of Monaco’s new yacht club in June. We hadn’t been given any information about the photo service; we just turned up to do a simple inauguration. But the whole family was there, which was a big surprise as it’s a really rare occurrence in Monaco! In reality, the family gets together often, but there are never any photographers present.
What sort of relationship do the royals have with official photographers and photography?
There is a great atmosphere amongst the photographers accredited at the palace; we know each other really well! But competition is fierce and the level is very high, in contrast to what people may think. Prince Albert is really good with us; he knows us all personally. He is not a politician on a campaign, nor is he a showbiz star, he never goes too far! He is a real pleasure to photograph. The trust he places in us is reciprocated. His bodyguards monitor the behaviour of the paparazzi, who are always present in Monaco.
Who is the most published of the members of the royal household at the moment?
Last year, all that everyone wanted was to capture Charlotte Casiraghi together with the actor Gad Elmaleh; it was the new love story of the principality. Today, it’s all about Princess Charlene because she’s expecting a baby! This will bring us a lot of work in the next few months, with the birth of the future heir.
To see more of Valéry’s work, check out his website