Olivier Martel was born in Provence, he graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. He served as a trainee in many architectural firms before starting a career as a photographer and prior to his military service in Brazaville, Congo. His photographic experience spans 35 years, and cover over 74 countries throughout the world.

- 1973-1976 : Photographer with GAMMA agency.
- 1978-1991 : Photographer with RAPHO agency.
- 1992-1997 : Cofounder of ICONE agency.
- 1998-2007 : Freelance. Distributed by CORBIS agency international.
- 2008-2015 : Distributed by CORBIS and AKG Images (London - Berlin - Paris)


- France: Corbières, Alsace, the Canal du Midi, Burgundy, Provence.
- Society: Twins (France, Italy, USA), The Cour de Cassation (France's highest court, Paris).
- Religions: Confined nuns of Marseilles, the Renaissance of the Orthodox Church in Russia, the Russian Far North, the Cistercian Order (Europe), the Order of Malta (France, Italy, Malta, Senegal, Bethlehem).
- Health: The nurses of the impossible, musicotherapy, malaria in the world (Ethiopia, Colombia, Vietnam), plastic surgery in Japan.
- Africa: Madagascar, Mozambique, Ivory Coast (The fetish women), the Berbers (Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco,Niger), Burundi.
- Child jugglers ( Ivory Coast), the Secret of the Marabouts ( Senegal ), the Sabar, the forbidden dance (Senegal) . Djenne, (Mali).
- Far East, Asia: Singapore, Japan, the Asian Dragons (Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao), Australia, Syria, Cambodia: "The Children of Angkor". Vietnam
- Americas: Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Utah-Arizona, Central America.


- News Seita (Niger, Greenland, Yemen)
- Sport: Aigle, Le Coq Sportif, Rossignol
- Corporate: Indosuez, Le Gan
- Travel agencies: Nouvelles Frontières (Guadeloupe, Morocco), Air Charter, Le Club Méditerranée, Air France
- Humanitarian : Order of Malta Campaign 2007


- GEO (France, Germany, Spain, Japan, Korea)
- IO DONNA (Italy)


- " Au Royaume des Fétiches " Editions Romain Pages
- " Lettres de Floride " Editions Le Robert
- " Les Clefs de Singapour " Editions Le Robert
- " Lumières de Syrie" Editions Sud
- " Lumières de Tunisie " Editions Sud
- " Majestueux Tunisie" Editions Atlas
- " Cote d'Ivoire" Editions Hoa-Qui
- " l'Ame Cistercienne " Editions le Chêne/Hachette
- " Voyage en Russie " Editions Solar/GEO
- " Sur les traces de Michel Strogoff
- " l'Ame Russe" Ed. Phillipe Rey (texte de D. Fernandez de l'Académie Française) 2009.
- " Sur les routes du sacré" Ed. Presses de la Renaissance
- " Femmes Éternelles" Ed. Phillipe Rey (texte d'Eric Fottorino. ) mars 2011
- " L'Amour sauvera le monde" - Michael Lonsdale - Ed. Philippe Rey - 2011
- " 365 Méditations - Paroles de vie de l'Abbé Pierre" Ed. Presse de la Renaissance - 2011
- " Berbères" - text Eric Fottorino - photographies d'Olivier Martel - editions Philippe Rey - oct.2012
- " L'esprit des Monastères" - text Anne Ducrocq - photographies d'Olivier Martel - Ed. Gründ - oct.2014
- " Méditations sur la Vie " textes Christophe André, Anne Ducrocq. photographies Olivier Martel . éditions Gründ. oct 2016 .


- " Les infirmières de l'impossible " Lyon's Club press, 1990
- Exhibition: Visa pour l'Image. Perpignan , " Les Infirmières de l'Impossible".1989
- Kodak critics prize , 1977
- Exhibition at the Arche de la Defense: Russian Icons and the Orthodox Church, 1999
- Exhibition : Visa pour l'Image, Perpignan, 12th edition September 2000: "Berbers".
- Exhibition Wereldculturencentrum. " Berberfestival", Antwerp, Belgium. Nov.2001
- Exhibition Wereldculturencentrum. " Tuaregs ", Antwerp, Belgium. April 2002
- Slides projection: Visa pour l'Image, Perpignan. "The Kingdom of Fetish women". Sept. 2002
- Exhibition " Couleurs d'Ailleurs ". Office Culturel Bry sur Marne. October 2005
- Exhibition " Voyage en Russie". Sur les traces de Michel Strogoff. Sucy en Brie. Outdoor city center. Dec.05/ January 2006.
- Exhibition " Women in the World". March 8th 2007. International Women day. Conseil Général du Val de Marne. Hotel du Département à Créteil
- "Women throughout the World" : Olivier Martel on His Uplifting Portraits Encircling Paris Luxembourg Gardens2011. March 8 to June 15 .
- Exhibition "Eternal Women across the world." In salt granaries from Honfleur from July 7 to August 27, 2012.
- Exhibition "Eternal Women across the world." Roissy en France. From April 2012 to April 2013.
- Exhibition "Eternal Women". Turrets. Crotoy. Baie de Somme. 23 October 2011 to 8 January 2012.
- Exhibition "Voyages en Folies" 3 november 2016 to 5 february 2017 on the place CH la Chartreuse à Dijon - France (21).


Photographic Philosophy

If my photographs appear to be quiet and dense it is the result of great strictness concerning graphic and chromatic aspects.Constantly pervaded by doubts it is founded on humanity and on the desire to approach the invisible "soul of the profound self".
Contrary to the black and white technique that is much softer through all the its nuances of gray, the color technique is a totally different realm requiring a more demanding approach. Color calls on the violence of contrast, paradoxically so as it is meant to be pleasant to the eye. My personal approach is to try to combine lightness and density.
In my view, to take a photograph is to seize: to seize the right moment as far as light is concerned, to capture a particular instant, an instant of eternity, exactly at the moment when the contrast is most vivid, at that precise moment when the expression springs out from the depth of the eye.


Life Philosophy

After my first war coverages – in Mozambique and Burundi- and an extremely violent encounter with color, I chose to embrace the profession fully as a clear career choice turned towards long term projects. This allowed me to discover a greater stability and harmony in the composition of my works. This explicit approach also stemmed from a refusal to cover topics where speed was the main, if not only, satisfaction or fascination.
My approach is resolutely patient. Over the years I have discovered and explored many cultures step by step, from an anthropological, scientific, religious or spiritual perspective. I have covered topics such as: «Fetishists» in Ivory Coast, the « Order of Malta» through the world,
«Malaria» on three Continents, «Orthodoxy» in Russia, the «Cistercian Order» in Europe, « Carmelite nun Convent » in France.
All of these topics have required and continue to require a most discreet but tenacious approach, a total commitment combined with an unfailing patience.

The photographer is thus a constant traveller seeking an encounter with new horizons, an other cultures and foreign religions. This is when one must give up certainties for intuition. This is when the only guide for the photographer must be light, and his only master the eye.


Diary of an Image Seeker

I discovered Photography in the Congo. I was on voluntary service overseas as a teacher for young Africans, teaching them an Art in which I was somewhat unexperienced.
I learned a lot with them during the year and a half I spent with them. In this short time I fell in love with photography and with the African continent of so many contrasts. One and a half years to find my vocation.

After my first war coverages in Mozambique and Burundi, and a violent encounter with color, I decided to settle down in South Africa for some time. Here, I chose to deal with two issues: Women and Apartheid. Officially I was working as a photographer for a women's magazine. Secretly, I was set on the coverage of apartheid. Now, I realize that these two topics were the core of what I was seeking. I wanted to be as close as possible to humankind in it's sufferings as well as in all it’s beauty and splendor. Having to leave South Africa, I then started to roam the world producing coverages for magazines. This was when I discovered the importance of long and in depth reporting. Even though I had been involved in numerous advertising campaigns, I realized they did not carry the true meaning of my photographic quest. Every encounter, every shot was archived in the scope of a much deeper and focused work.
While roaming throughout Africa I was not only working on marabouts in Senegal, on animist communities in Ivory Coast, or forbidden ritual dancing in Sabar; with my leica camera as only companion, I was seeking something else. I wanted to dig deep into the people's rituals, to understand the mysteries of their cultures: to seize them in my shots.

For many years I have been exploring cultures and most of all the spiritual aspects. I have spent many months among animist communities. A certain number of books have been published after these encounters. « In the realm of Fetishists » is one of them. Then, there was the humanitarian approach with « Malaria in the World »with the WHO ( World Health Organization) , in which Ethiopia, Columbia and Vietnam each represented a continent. Then there was Madagascar, with « Children of the Streets » with MSF ( Mèdecins sans Frontières ).
But I was also fascinated by the light of the Cistercian monasteries and I travelled through Europe trying to catch glimpses of this very particular luminous atmosphere.
“The Cistercian Soul” has been an achievement in this quest. Then there was Orthodoxy: how many voyages to Russia have I done to imprint how attracted I have been by this religion?
All these topics, all these books have required, and still require a discreet but tenacious approach as well as a total commitment. A recent book « The Russian Soul » is a good illustration of this process.

Nota Bene : Philosophie de la Photographie, Philosophie de la Vie et Itinéraire d'un chercheur d'images were written by Vincent Pieri..