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Melding nature and technology: it’s a snap!


Pascale Dubois, Group Director of Communications, presents the Safran “Mimesis” photography contest, where nature meets technology.

3D loom : carbon fiber

What links are there between nature and aeronautics?

A butterfly’s wings glittering in the morning dew, a water droplet sliding over the surface of a leaf, a praying mantis unfolding its legs, an abandoned tree stump, a spider’s web in the sunlight, a wind-swept dune… The beauties of nature are an inexhaustible source of wonder, not just for artists, but also for engineers! 

These indelible images have inspired – and continue to inspire – a number of human inventions, a process dubbed “bioinspiration”. In the 15th century, for instance, Leonardo da Vinci was already sketching “flying machines” that reproduced bird flight. A few hundred years later, Frenchman Clément Ader developed the first engine-powered flying machine which he called an avion, derived from the Latin avis, or “bird”, and also the acronym for Appareil Volant Imitant l’Oiseau Naturel (“Flying Apparatus Imitating Natural Birds”).


What messages does the “Mimesis” photography contest convey?

This competition represents a genuine opportunity to talk about our products, our skills and our professions... Not to mention that it’s a timely reminder that we often derive inspiration from nature to help reduce the environmental footprint of aircraft. Take, for instance, the honeycomb structure of our nacelles, which “trap” engine noise while also reducing weight. Or our composite materials, using a weaving technique as light and strong as a spider’s web.

I also think this contest will help us rehabilitate our technologies by encouraging recognition of their innate beauty, to support Safran’s stated purpose: contribute to a safer, more sustainable world, where air transport is more environmentally friendly, comfortable and accessible.

Our partners in this venture – the Arts et Métiers science & industry museum in Paris and the magazine Sciences & Avenir – came aboard spontaneously, showing that there is a convergence of viewpoints over and above Safran’s own concerns, and a shared desire to marry nature with technology via a visual and aesthetic approach.


What place does photography have in Safran’s communications?

In a world dominated by images, it’s hardly surprising for a company to use photos as a communications channel. I love words, but I’m also a big photography fan, and I’ve always considered images as a powerful vehicle for communicating, primarily between source and target, of course, but also between different target audiences.

The emotion aroused, the astonishment, the shock sometimes create shared moments between people that are often unique.

Since we have long been convinced of the power contained in images, and of the astonishing similarities between our technologies and nature, we wanted to share this sense of wonder with as many people as possible.

Back in the 17th century, well before the advent of photography, Japanese poets invented the haiku, a short poem capturing the beauty of a short moment in the present, often concerning nature. Through our photo contest, we wanted to awaken the same kind of emotion, but via images. The keen eye of the photographer, curious, passionate and unexpected, may reveal links that neither an engineer nor a communications specialist could perceive.

And that’s what we’re trying to inspire – a different perception.


What happens after the contest?

After a prize-giving ceremony scheduled for December, a photography exhibition will be held on the railings of the Arts et Métiers science & industry museum between March and May 2021. The winning photographs will be exhibited side by side, in a triptych with images of our products and images from the museum. This presentation will highlight the similarities between these different worlds.


Access the photography contest page