Michaël Gras


About – my commitment

Social documentary photography

Social documentary photography is what drives me. It is the commitment I have to show the world through a positive, solution oriented and humanist lense. Indeed, to solve any issue, establishing a good diagnostic is key, but if no leads about solving it are suggested, we cannot move on. That is why I try, as much as it is relevant, to focus on positive aspects of our time. Hereafter is my train of thoughts :

“Our world is in danger”.

I grew up to this catchphrase. Fed with alarmist macroscopic breaking news and documentaries, I chose a field of study which I thought could help me tackle these global issues.  7 years later, I got two masters degrees and a job in the international affairs sector. With the view to helping my fellow humans, I then left and travelled across the world.

“A painful reality check”.

I spent three years living and working for the French diplomacy in Cambodia. During this time, I went on multiple travels across South-East Asia. And this whole experience proved to be a painful reality check. Indeed, most of what I took for granted was challenged, and many of the beliefs I had as a freshly graduated young professional were simply crushed. I realized there is a strong contradiction in our very lifestyle.

“It’s not about our world, it’s about us”.

The people I met in Cambodia, in Laos, in Myanmar, in Vietnam and elsewhere taught me that it’s not about our world. It’s about us. We are the threat.
Because of our lifestyle, we, the whole human species, are going straight into the wall. Wrong direction! I had chosen my field of study and of work to contribute to change things from within the system. But when I saw how people on the other side of the planet have to deal with what our lifestyle produces, I realized that the system is the threat. The actual forces of change are the people.

“In an avalanche, no snowflake ever feels responsible”.

The system is speeding right into the wall. The funny thing is that it clearly knows about it and floods all media with alarmist pieces of news. Still, it never urges us to act upon these news, for, I believe, it needs us to remain in a state of constant fear to insure our passive consent and active consumption – for its own sake and survival.

When looking back, I noticed I had indeed always been kept in a relative complacent state by this fear mongering information. Many of us are convinced that we are too little and insignificant to be able to change anything. Therefore, we do not do much to contribute to change things, for it seems to be a lost cause. This feeling was deeply rooted in my core. I thought that if I had been the only one to act, it would have yield no tangible result, exactly as if I had done nothing. Had I not been born at all, the world would not have been any bit different actually. Should all of us think this way, everyone’s responsibility becomes the responsibility of no one.

“They did not know it was impossible, so they did it”.

Notwithstanding the wide variety of services – or complete lack thereof – their States provided them with, the people in Asia showed me that the most efficient actors of change are the citizens. Indeed, for they often lack of such democratic tools, they do not wait for elections to be held to take action. They do not wait for lobbies to influence policies, nor do they expect referendums to voice their concerns. In a nutshell, they do not wait for any exogenous event to happen and save the day.

Of course, none of what they do will ever make up for the USA’s withdrawal of the Paris Climate Accords, or put an end to the melting of polar ice. But they contribute to these goals by doing their share, to the best of their abilities. They do so without discarding the responsibility they have over their course of action, and it has a positive impact around them.

“To do my share: what social photography means to me”

It hit me: it was my turn to become an actor of the change I wanted to see. Photography is my one passion and I have this hunch that the fear mongering information is undermining our courage and willpower. Therefore, I decided that my photography would serve and promote positive, concrete, useful and beautiful actions. I turned to social photography. I want to focus on the local, the simple, the immediate. My approach to photography is humanist, and I wish to contribute to a change in our way of consuming information. With my images, I hope to shed some positive light on the initiatives in social work and environment which are making a difference in the field to demonstrate that it is not that difficult for anyone to do their share.

Consequently, I specialize in custom photography for social and environmental work actors. For more information on that, please feel free to contact me through the contact form of this website or at contact@michaelgras.com. Finally, you can get in touch with me through my social media pages: Facebook and Instagram.

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  • South-East Asian Cities, Lycée français René Descartes, Phnom Penh


Group exhibitions:


  • Urban Eyes, group exhibition under the mentoring of French photographer André Mérian, Institut français du Cambodge
  • Free Rein, group exhibition, Institut français du Cambodge
  • Let’s dance!, group exhibition, Institut français du Cambodge