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EXPATRIATES IN MAURITIUS
» 15 May 2009
ELIE BERNAGER

Paris is well known for its contribution to the world of art. Almost everyone with a taste for culture has heard of the Louvre, even if they have never visited it. In 1953 a somewhat smaller contribution to the world of art was unveiled in Paris in the form of baby Elie Bernager. Of course, no one could foresee that he would become a much sought after photographer, doing work for the likes of Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. But, given that his father, a doctor, and his mother, a well known artist, gave him the freedom and encouragement to explore his early artistic abilities, it is perhaps not surprising that he has achieved such a high level of success.

Early Career

At sixteen Elie earned a place at the prestigious National des Arts Decoratif, a school which admits around sixty students a year selected from approximately three thousand applicants. Competition is fierce and only those who show the most promise are admitted.
 
While at school, Elie developed a penchant for travel and so sought a career where his wanderlust could be sated. A career with Club Med holiday resorts fit the bill for the next ten years or so, as well as working on features for various magazines. At the age of thirty Elie decided to try his hand at fashion and still-life photography and worked for French Vogue as well as the other aforementioned magazines.

Life & Work

At fifty five years of age Elie has so far visited one country for each year and enjoys travelling with his partner, Celine, and two children, Nathan and Claire. In his spare time he is something of a water sports fan and enjoys scuba diving, hobby cat sailing and canoeing. In 2001 Elie and his family moved to Mauritius and enjoyed the country so much that they decided to stay for the foreseeable future and have made their home in Tamarin.

Elie has diversified his career since moving to the island and teaches photography at the D.C.D.M University in Quatre Bon. He also gives a class once a month at the Populaire University of Mauritius where his students range in age from eighteen to seventy and learn and discuss such things as photographic technique and composition and fundamental questions such as “what is photography?”

Recently Elie has become involved in the new and very popular niche market of “weddings in Mauritius”. Couples come to the island specifically to marry and there is a great deal of competition amongst photographers for the work. The quality of the work varies greatly however and Elie sadly comments that, “Other photographers don't love the people they are shooting; they just do it for the money. I do it for the money as well but, being thirty five years in the photographic business, everything I do in this business is for love, for the hell of it, for the pleasure of doing it.”

“Working is like a holiday” for Elie and he takes great pleasure in meeting new people and ending the day with happy clients. His goal is, “...to give to the customer the best service they ever had. I treat them like models, I treat them like stars, I'm ready to do my best as a fashion photographer to help them make the day the most memorable they ever had.”


Mauritius also figures strongly in Elie's philosophy on his work. “I am always thinking of the island itself, all of my pictures promote holidays in Mauritius, being a tourist in Mauritius, being in a nice five or four star hotel in Mauritius and encouraging more people to come here.” Promoting the country not only benefits him, but everyone who lives here, and he hopes that others in the tourist industry feel the same way.

Mauritius

One of the things that Elie likes most about the country is that, when they put their minds to it, Mauritians can be well organised and very clever. He finds the younger generation in particular to be very open minded and he teaches his students that coming from a multicultural background is advantageous in terms of art, because it opens the mind to far more possibilities and ways of doing things than might otherwise occur.

Mauritius is a relatively safe place to live and, unlike in other countries, Elie feels at ease leaving his children to play without constant supervision. Another important feature of the country is that it is a democracy with freedom of speech and for Elie this characteristic is amongst the most important in the world.
 
Legacy

When asked what he would like his legacy to be, Elie replied that he hopes to have lived his life while doing as little harm to others as possible, and having instilled in his children open mindedness and the confidence to be themselves. A thoughtful answer from a wise man; perhaps others should view the world from behind the lens of a camera?

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