The world of science has lost one of its most talented chroniclers. Last Friday evening, photographer Philippe Plailly, founder of the Paris-based scientific photo agency Eurelios, was killed in the Dordogne region of southern France when the ultralight airplane in which he was a passenger crashed for reasons that are not yet clear. The pilot was also killed.
Philippe was working on a documentary about the Magdalenian period of the Western European Upper Paleolithic, which stretched roughly from 18,000 years to 12,000 years ago and produced some of the greatest examples of prehistoric art (including the Lascaux Cave.) The accident happened just south of Les Eyzies de Tayac, often called the "capital" of French prehistory because of the density of prehistoric sites in and around the town.
I had known Philippe and his partner, hominid reconstruction artist Elisabeth Daynès, for many years. Philippe's photos occasionally appeared in Science, including this cover for a special issue on hominid migrations that featured his rendition of Elisabeth's reconstruction of two hominids from the Georgian site of Dmanisi.
Philippe's death is a terrible tragedy, but at least he died doing what he lived for: Using his photographic skills to bring science to a wide public. He will be buried in Paris' Père-Lachaise Cemetery on July 24.
Cover photo: Philippe Plailly/Eurelios and AAAS.
PS--I did not have access to a photo of Philippe when I posted this but here is one from a photographer's Web site.