Alexis de Vilar began taking photographs as a teenager with a Mamiya C330 that incidentally was handed to
him in the island of Ibiza by a professional photographer while he was waiting for his brother to land
at the local harbor. In turn Alexis was about to depart for Barcelona and the photographer asked him if
he could hand over the camera to a friend upon reaching the city the next day. This took place in 1964
at a time when Ibiza had not yet an airport, so all the communications were due by boat. Alexis dreamed
to become an architect but that camera, that he dissembled during the cruise night journey, changed his
path. Upon arrival the next day he called the people he was supposed to hand over the camera and managed
to keep it for the weekend as they were away. Somehow and this was quite a feat, the young Alexis got
the number for the most iconic top model at the time, Margit Kocsis (an abstract painter as well that
was famous for riding almost naked a white stallion for a brandy advert ) and to Alexis’s surprise she
agreed to be taken pictures for free. Not being able to pick the model on his car for lack of a driving
license, Alexis collected Margit with a taxi and don’t having either a studio, he took her to the
cemetery that presides over the city in Miramar mountain. To his own surprise the resulting pictures
were good enough. Suddenly his architecture dream was over.
In the follow years Alexis won an ward at the 1st International Advertising Film Festival in Barcelona aged 22 years old and the same year represented Spain in Cannes. But tried of the commercial side of advertising, he turned to become a war correspondent in Uganda in 1972 and the after focused on social and environmental issues. In 1978 he founded in Brussels the Tribe Life Fund, an interactional association to help preserve the so-called primitive peoples, and the ecosystems that make up their natural habitats, from the advances of industrial society. A passionate and exciting man that exudes energy from all four sides; a person that imposes his presence, knowledge, works, and personal fulfillment. A simple and close imposition, not at all pretentious, always natural, pure.
His works as a writer has conquered some of the best newspaper and magazines around the world, and as a photographer has presented his work in art galleries and museums in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. A career filled with anecdotes, journeys, and illustrious partners in life, vital enrichment and transcendent accomplishments such as Alan Watts, Cypriot President Makarios, Sir James Mancham (President of the Seychelles Islands), Frederick Forsyth and Larry Collins (writers and former war correspondents), Dr. Christiaan Barnard, Glenda Jackson, Michael Chaplin, Luis Buñuel, Arthur C. Clarke, Ivan Illich and Henry Miller, among many other personalities from the worlds of politics, arts, and sciences. Author, photographer and explorer, Alexis de Vilar has spent almost 50 years photographing distant cultures and his work is the subject of solo exhibitions at galleries and museums in Africa, Asia and America. Over the years, Alexis has visited over thirty countries, and has become a specialist in Third World problems, in particular those of Africa and Asia.
He has published several books and novels and is currently working on several others. As an international journalist, Alexis was the only journalist allowed to enter the Victor Versten prison at Cape Town while Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there.
In 1979 Alexis was selected by UNESCO to write an official television series for the International Year of the Child, due to his experience with childhood problems in the Third World. Sometime later he went on special assignment for National Geographic / Rutas del Mundo. He also founded the Tribal Life Fund in Brussels, an international large-scale effort to preserve the integrity of primitive tribes. In 1992, a well-known publisher labelled Alexis, the ‘Cousteau of the Earth’, as he continues fighting alone to protect from our Western civilization, the last traditional peoples and their supporting ecosystems. Internationally he is one of the most successful, creative and sought after photographers still alive and working. He speaks numerous African tribal languages and often returns to live amongst these indigenous.
"Behind the lens: Alexis de Vilar, nomadic photographer. / Eric Vökel: