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Real-life Yucatán, fantasy photo shoots

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No sets or phony backdrops can compare with Yucatán’s weathered, gritty streets and natural landscapes to evoke romance and adventure. Millions of readers first glimpse the peninsula in the pages Elle or Vogue, thanks to the talents of Dominique Duneton Berthou of Yucatán Productions, who sees the peninsula through a sophisticated lens.

So tell me about yourself. Where were you born, and where around the world have you lived before settling in Yucatan? What sort of jobs have you held?

Dominique Duneton Berthou
Dominique Duneton Berthou

YELinterview-1114webI was born in France. I was in the pharmaceutical industry as Director for 12 years.

One day, my husband and I decided to travel around the world, leading us to unexpected and very different places: four years in Miami, two years in Marrakech, six years in Montreal, and now Mexico. We’ve been here about 10 years and have finally found the perfect place to settle down.

I have been model in Miami, and director for a French outdoor clothing company (Lafuma/Millet) in Canada,

You scout for locations that serve as settings that we end up seeing in advertising or programming. A street in Mérida can become a backdrop for a high-fashion model, or an archeological site might provide atmosphere for a beer campaign. What makes the Yucatan Peninsula a good place for what you do?

The Yucatán peninsula has it all: sandy beaches, impressive temples, wondrous cenotes, incredible haciendas, colonial cities… Few people know the country in its authenticity. With Yucatán Productions, my goal is to show all the aspects of this country to my clients: the more realistic side. Which is why, I am based in Merida, surrounded by richness people can’t even imagine: cenotes, temples, colonial houses, haciendas, small towns…. However, when doing a production in Mexico, you can combine this with a trip to the Mayan Riviera, where the most beautiful beaches of the Caribbean are. Great locations, delicious food, warm and welcoming people are the reason why I chose this country to do my job.

What kinds of brands gravitate to you, and to Yucatán?

A lot of brands from the fashion industry. Jockey International US, Lands’ End, Neiman Marcus, Urban Outfitters, Franklin & Marshall, Vuitton. Also, editorial titles such as Elle, Grazia, Glamour and Marie Claire.

But also, unexpected company as Apple, Kia, Johnnie Walker, etc.

And TV shows: “House Hunters International” and “Martha Stewart.”

ypcollageIt’s not just a matter of planting your flag on a site. You have to get permits, gather talent, provide food and transportation … is this as difficult as it sounds?

In Mexico you need good contacts and a lot of guts! Even when it’s not really permitted to shoot somewhere, there is always a solution! The trick is to know the people and places, and to be a good negotiator. You have to be well organized, and keep your self control when the clients ask you at the last minute something that was not scheduled: plane, horse, boat with a wooden deck, dancers or whatever.

What’s the most rewarding part of the job: Preparing for a project, the moments you’re in production, or is it seeing the end result?

All three aspects are exciting. Preparing a project is getting to know the client and their expectations. Then, during the project, we usually have a lot of fun and live crazy moments all together. Which is why my clients are usually regulars who come back almost each year. And finally, seeing the final result is always rewarding, after a lot of hard work, it’s nice to see the outcome.

Some of your sites are quite rustic. What was your most challenging location?

Shooting in the middle of the city with all the traffic and people is quite challenging. But shooting in the middle of nowhere, is not always easy. When I did a production for Pacifico beer, we traveled by boat, plane, and cars to shoot in Chiapas, then Puerto Escondido, then Yaxchilan where we missed the last ¨lancha ¨to go back, and had to sleep in the middle of the jungle.

Can you think of anything in your life that has prepared you for this career?

Moving around a lot and having to adapt in very different countries (culture, language, etc.) is a good school of life! It taught me to be quick in adaptation and always to find rapid solutions in order to have a stable life.

You live in a hacienda on the peninsula. Not everyone is cut out for hacienda living beyond the span of a vacation. What is that style of life like, day in and day out?

Having a lot of productions, I usually move around a lot. I’m at the hacienda most of my free time, but during these moments, I’m always preparing another production. And then, I leave mostly to the Mayan Riviera, Mexico City, Los Cabos, etc. So being isolated with my family at the hacienda is the only peaceful moment I have to myself, which is why it’s necessary for me.

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