Panda-monium II: Knox's Godsil Photographs Pandas in France

Earlier, he documented the arrival of pandas in Scotland

February 01, 2012

Mike Godsil's photo of panda arrival and welcome in FranceFor the second time in a matter of weeks, Knox College faculty member Michael Godsil has applied his photographic talents while participating in a worldwide media event revolving around two giant pandas.

Godsil, a 1976 Knox graduate and photography instructor in Knox's Department of Art and Art History and photojournalism instructor in the Knox Journalism Program, photographed the January 15 arrival of the pandas in Paris, France, for FedEx. The international shipping company flew the pair from China to France in a chartered Boeing 777F called the "FedEx Panda Express." (At top: Michael Godsil's photo of officials from FedEx and ZooParc de Beauval as they open "friendship offerings" from Chinese children.)Mike Godsil's photo of panda arrival and welcome in France

According to news articles from Reuters and The Associated Press, the 3-year-old pandas -- Huan Huan, a female, and Yuan Zi, a male -- are on loan to France from China for 10 years. (At right: Michael Godsil's photo of a panda on the way to ZooParc de Beauval.)

Godsil also photographed the arrival of two other giant pandas in Edinburgh, Scotland, on December 4, 2011. FedEx transported those pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, from China to their new living quarters at the Edinburgh Zoo, where they're on loan for at least 10 years.

In both France and Scotland, Godsil was among a handful of still photographers and videographers to be permitted near the pandas.

While planning the pandas' arrival in France, FedEx tried to put together essentially the same team it had used in Scotland, Godsil said. "Everybody pretty well knew their job."

Godsil, a member of the Knox faculty since 2005, said his firsthand experience with the high-profile events allows him to "talk knowledgeably" with Knox students about what's involved in planning such events. A key aspect of planning is to anticipate and avoid potential difficulties.

After Huan Huan and Yuan Zi landed at France's Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, the pandas were transferred into special FedEx trucks and driven to the ZooParc de Beauval in Saint-Aignan, about 140 miles southwest of Paris. Zoo co-owner Delphine Delord was quoted by the AP as saying the pandas will "live here the life of stars."

Mike Godsil's photo of panda arrival and welcome in FranceBonjour, pandas!

The event clearly was a big deal to people living in the French countryside, Godsil said.

"As we drove the last half-hour or so, there were clusters of people, standing, waiting for the panda trucks to go by." (At left: Michael Godsil's photo of a family ready to greet the pandas in France.)

As had been the case with the pandas in Scotland, the arrival of pandas in France also attracted a large amount of media interest.

"It was certainly the lead story on all of the Paris TV stations, that evening and the next morning," Godsil said.

Late on January 15, after completing the photo assignment, Godsil returned to his hotel room around midnight, flicked on a television set, and watched CNN International.

"On the second story," he said, "the tagline was, ‘Bonjour, Pandas!'"

(Below: Michael Godsil on the tarmac of Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Photo by Mikael Buck. Below left: Michael Godsil's photo of the FedEx plane in Paris as the pandas are offloaded. Below right: Michael Godsil's photo of part of the crowd awaiting the pandas at ZooParc de Beauval.)

Michael Godsil near the FedEx plane in France

Mike Godsil's photo of panda arrival and welcome in France Mike Godsil's photo of panda arrival and welcome in France