Mon, 06/04/2012 - 11:33
France's presidential portraits, from the garden to the library – and back
One of the things newly elected French presidents have to endure is posing for their “official presidential photo”. If they get it wrong, it will haunt them for the rest of their time in office – it’s hung up in every school, town hall, hospital and police station across the country. It might seem a little Soviet-esque, but I've never seen Sarkozy’s face beaming from the wall of a barbershop or stuck to the back of a car. On Monday, it was time for François Hollande to comb his hair and sit with his hands folded in his lap. Well… almost. The photo was taken by Magnum member and documentary-maker Raymond Depardon in the Elysée Palace gardens. Very refreshing, after five years of looking at Sarkozy’s stuffy wooden library scene. But not very original. In fact, looking back over the past few decades, it seems that there are only two places French presidents are allowed to be officially photographed – the garden or the library. It’s not a very material world in the garden. France’s “bling-bling” president, Nicolas Sarkozy, chose the plush bookshelves of the library as the backdrop to his own official mugshot in 2007. It is tradition, after all. Notice how prominently the French and European Union flags feature in the Sarkozy scene compared with Hollande’s. Jaqcues Chirac seems to have hit the nail on the head with his own portrait in 1995. Back to the garden (I told you there was a pattern here), Chirac has managed to look neither uncomfortable (see Hollande) nor smug (see Sarkozy). He didn’t even bother with the EU flag. Keeping it real… 1981. Where is François? François Mitterrand is in the library, of course! But unlike Sarkozy, Mitterrand is pretending to read one of those ancient books in the background. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing really broke the rules with his oh-so-70s Tricolore fashion shoot in 1974. He was the first ever president to look directly into the camera. Back in 1969, Georges Pompidou was still stuck in the era when hanging heavy golden objects from your person was a good thing. It was also a time when the library was the only place to be for official photographs. It gets pretty repetitive from here on in. This is Charles de Gaulle in 1958 – you can guess the rest.
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