Paris-based Mathilde de l’Ecotais is a much sought-after food photographer, director, producer and maker of food art, as well as a designer and creative director. She is involved in an impressive array of projects, from recently founding and overseeing a free school, Media Social Food, to designing several boulangeries for Thierry Marx and mounting a new exhibition of her photographic work at MAMO in Marseille. As difficult as it is to define Mathilde as an artist, it is patently clear that not only is she a creative force, she is an agent of social change. “Image is easier for me than words are. I like all those images that open your mind and not close it.”
“Anytime I have an idea, I will go and realize it. It’s important that we keep that in mind that nothing is done.”
Mathilde’s work is free from prescription, and has a lyricism that celebrates the interconnectivity between humans and between nature and humanity. The beauty and fragility of nature are central to her work. In her signature and patented food photography, she reveals the cosmos contained in the tomato, the pea pod, and other humble ingredients. “When I started to go closer and closer to the material, I discovered an entire other world. Clearly, what is very small looks like what is very big. If you think about a salmon roe egg, it looks like a planet. And to me, it’s the beginning of life. Nature made everything in the first place, we are just copying it.”
“When you go up close, you see the richness of what the earth produces and you realize ‘It is so rich, it must be very fragile.’ I started to protect it in my work, in the ways I know how.”
Mathilde’s philosophy of interconnectedness is evident when she speaks about food and her artistic processes. Ayurvedic principles of nurturing mind, body, soul, and social relationships and keeping all in balance are at the core of her life and work. “Basically it’s the same: if you don’t take care of your home—which is this (gesturing to her body)—you don’t work. So it’s the only capital we have to obey [because] if that doesn’t go well, nothing goes well.”
“I can travel to be in nature but I travel in my mind. I travel when I photograph, I am just an open mind. I need nature, but it’s the transplantation of that nature into my brain that I try to reveal in a different way, or in its real way, I would say.”
As much as Mathilde works with nature and is inspired and connected to it, she doesn’t feel the need to reject urban living. “I like this energy, the energy of the city. I think it’s very powerful. I love cities, really. I’m not against progress, I love technology. And she embraces it in every aspect of her life; she sees it as the bridge to younger generations, and the only way to sustain the planet. “No young people will go to the country if there is no cell phone service. It needs to be the most trendy thing in the next years so young people have the desire to go and live in the country, become farmers, do good things, and produce quality products. That is important and [requires] technology. We have to go with progress, and we have to work together to make it happen. That’s the only way we’ll be able to manage to have a real economic ecosystem, a good ecosystem.”
Perhaps because she established herself purely through grit and self-determination—supporting herself as a photojournalist from the age of 17—she is invested in creating opportunities for the new generation, particularly for individuals who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to this type of education or resources. Her newly established school, Media Social Food, provides free training and opportunities for people ages 18-22 to enter the food industry as social media photographers and videographers. “Media Social Food only does work with cell phones because I consider this progress. I want to open [the industry] to those [young] people, because they have many things to do and they know how to manipulate it better than I do. It’s going to be amazing.”
She is cognizant of her privilege as an artist who doesn’t consider her activities to be “work”. “I feel I am very privileged: loving what I do, doing what I do every day and being able to live from it, from producing images. I am very grateful for everything.” From her privileged position, she leverages the media attention she and her husband, celebrated French chef Thierry Marx, generate to create social projects and movements. “Thierry is way more médiatique (well-known) than I am but it’s good—he basically will become the symbol of the earth to the plate and how what we eat and what we buy can be an act of activism. ”
“I think we can do amazing things if we decide to inverse the way we did things in the last twenty years. Human beings are very bright. If we decide to put the energy in the right way, we can do amazing things together—we have to, I’m convinced. I’m really active, I want to make change; I want things to change. I’m very optimistic, because we can do amazing things if we decide to.”
By honing in with the macro lens in her work, Mathilde opens our perception to what is interconnected and universal. An artist activist, she uses technology to inspire and to empower the next generations with the knowledge, tools, and platform to ensure we are conscious of our relationships with food, each other, and the Earth.
Special thanks to Where Is Brian.