When I think of Nicolas Reynard, the first thing that comes to mind was his extraordinary energy and enthusiasm. No one who remembers Nicolas can forget his firm handshake, his infectious smile, and the confidence he radiated.
Nicolas was a gifted, hard-working photographer who plunged headlong into whatever project he happened to be working on. He did nothing halfway; it was all or nothing for him, and he worked tirelessly to surmount any obstacle that stood between him and the photograph he wanted to create.
I spent three months with Nicolas in the most trying conditions, as the National Geographic writer on a three-month expedition into the land of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon in 2002. Nicolas had arranged our participation in the journey through his close personal contact with the renowned Brazilian wilderness scout Sydney Possuelo, who led the expedition.
Living on the edge for weeks on end tends to reveal one's character in ways that ordinary existence cannot. And the thing that most impressed me about Nicolas during our months in the wilderness was how he continued to treat every day of the journey, from the crack of each mist-shrouded dawn, as though it were the one that mattered most, the day that would provide the defining image of the story.
Nicolas was a delight to talk with. Any conversation that included him flowed seamlessly from personal to professional, between the world of ideas and that of events. Whether we were sharing intimacies about our girlfriends, the joys of fatherhood, or our triumphs and failures at work, the talk was unfailingly imbued with his contagious laugh and his enthusiasm. His zest for life was informed by a keen mind and an insatiable curiosity. He had a way of simplifying things that helped shape my understanding and appreciation of what we came to witness and document together.
"There are maybe 3,500 uncontacted people left in the world, all of them here in the area we're going into," he told me the first day we met in June 2002, as we flew west over the Amazon in a jetliner on our way to join the expedition. "And there are what, five billion, six billion people on the planet? And Sydney Possuelo is the one man who stands between those billions of people and the last uncontacted people on Earth. And we're going with him into this land."
From the beginning, his father, Paul Reynard, told me recently, Nicolas dreamed of being a photographer with National Geographic. By the time he was taken from us, Nicolas was living the life of his dreams, which is undoubtedly why he radiated such warmth and energy. He lived, and ultimately died, doing what he loved to do‚ discovering the world and sharing his vision of it with the rest of humanity.
He loved his daughter, Lily Fleur, and he spoke of her all the time. For her, his untimely death is a tragedy beyond words. For the rest of us, it is the loss of a great friend and colleague who had so much still to discover, so much still to share, so much still to show us.