Rites of Power: France’s Presidential Race • Abbas • Magnum Photos

Magnum Pro

Editorial Cultural Commercial Search Image Archive

Welcome to the New Magnum Photos Site

Explore the award-winning storytelling work of Magnum photographers here, or head to Magnum Pro to search and license photos from Magnum’s acclaimed image archive.

CONTINUE TO NEW SITE
SEARCH PHOTO ARCHIVE IN MAGNUM PRO
Politics

Rites of Power: France’s Presidential Race

Abbas explores the rituals of French politicians on the campaign circuit for the 2017 presidential elections

Abbas

Abbas Electoral meeting of Arnaud Montebourg, candidate to the Primaries of the Left for the Presidential elections. He arrives, surrounded by a pack of cameramen. Paris, France. Jan. 18, 2017. © Abbas | Magnum Photos

Throughout his career, Abbas has explored the rites and rituals of religions. Now, he turns his lens to exploring similar traditions within the political sphere in this personal visual and written account.

In the early eighties I followed obsessively the campaigns of French politicians. With my background as foreigner, an Iranian transplanted to France, and my knowledge of Africa, I soon realised that politicians follow certain rituals. I therefore decided to photograph them the way I would a Zulu tribe.

Abbas PM Manuel Valls visits the X-FAB factory which produces semiconductors. He takes off his protective overall. Shedding his skin as Prime Minister for one of candidate did not help. Corbeil-Essonnes (...)
Abbas Emmanuel Macron, Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Technology, visits the Eurosatory salon where the latest armament systems are displayed. He looks dubious while sitting inside an amored v (...)
Abbas Alain Juppe, ex-PM and candidate to the Presidential elections of 2017,visits the Eurosatory salon where the latest armament systems are displayed. Exhibition Park in Paris North Villepinte, Paris, (...)
Abbas Jean-François Cope, mayor of the city, MP and candidate to the Presidential elections inaugurates the museum dedicated to the Brie cheese. Members of the Confrerie du Brie de Meaux, in full regalia (...)

"Shaking the hand of a person, any person was the first ritual; each hand shaken has the potential of putting the politician’s name in the ballot box"

- Abbas

Shaking the hand of a person, any person was the first ritual; each hand shaken has the potential of putting the politician’s name in the ballot box. Plants and flowers decorating their rostrums enter into a dialogue with the politicians and seem to be part of another secret ritual. Visiting open markets, pretending to take an interest in the vegetables, the fruits and the meats on display is another ritual. But the highest order of liturgy was the sharing of food. This being France, a country of delicious, sensual food, no campaign trail could do without a sumptuous lunch or dinner.

Abbas The selfie ritual. Arnaud Montebourg, a candidate to the Socialist primaries for the Presidential elections, visits the SME (Salon des Moyennes Entreprises), a salon for middle businesses. Paris, (...)

"The new rituals are the selfies, which have somehow replaced the handshake"

- Abbas
Abbas PM Manuel Valls visits the Safran factory which produces aircraft engines. He wears 3-D glasses. Evry, Corbeil-Essonnes, France. November 10, 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas National hommage to French politcian Michel Rocard in the courtyard of the Invalides. President Francois Hollande arrives, followed by PM Manuel Valls and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Paris (...)
Abbas Vincent Pillion, candidate to the Primaries of the Left for the Presidential elections, visits an art center in the Montreuil popular neighbourhood. He talks to the press in front of a mural showin (...)
Abbas "Les Estivales de Marine LE PEN", summer camp organised by the right wing party Front National. President Marine LE PEN makes the closing speech, surrounded by her bodyguards. Frejus, France. Sept. (...)

I had these rituals in mind when I started photographing the campaign for the Presidential Elections of 2017. But I was soon to discover that all these rituals have disappeared. The new rituals are the selfies, which have somehow replaced the handshake; no politician dares not to accept a selfie, even if I can read on his face that he is bored doing so.

The other new ritual is the wall of cameras, most of them video, which precede every politician, observing his every move, recording his every phrase. I might have photographed the candidates with a caustic eye, I none-the-less have great respect for politicians: they do an impossible job. My camera is not politically neutral either: I hope that my likes and dislikes are apparent in my photos.

This story is part of The France Project: perspectives on the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary France. In this ongoing project, initiated in 2016, Magnum photographers explore the background to  issues influencing debate in the country in the run-up to the election. See more stories from this project here.

Abbas Candidate Francois Fillon holds his last meeting before the second round of the Primaries of the Right and the Center. He arrives with his wife Penelope on his right. Paris, France. November 25, 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, candidate to the primaries of the Republican party for the Presidential Elections, holds a meeting. A catwalk like a fashion model? Paris, France. November. 9, 2016. © Abbas | Magnum Photos
Abbas Meeting of Benoit Hamon, candidate to the Primaries of the Left. The French flag hides him. Paris, France. Jan. 25, 2017. © Abbas | Magnum Photos