Portrait of French President Sparks Criticism and Mockery

Raymond Depardon is one of the greatest living French photographers in the world, so when the new French President François Hollande was elected into office, Depardon was chosen to take his presidential portrait (seen above). The idea was to frame him as a “normal” guy, in stark contrast to his predecessor who had, quote, an “American-style presidency.” Unfortunately, regardless of the intent and photographical skill involved, the photo has been both widely criticized and mocked since it was unveiled on June 4th.

A smattering of comments sent in to local newspapers about the image, comments you can find on Imaging Resource, show a mixture of criticism for both the intent and the execution of that intent. One says the president looks “lost in his garden,” another that “the buildings [are] pale and far, the flags of France and Europe overexposed, and faint,” and still another complained that “This is not the picture of a President, this is a picture of a guy in a garden.”

What’s worse, some have taken to Photoshopping spoof images of the president in funny outfits, probably not what the president wants. But what’s your take on the photo? Is this simply expertly executed simplicity/normalcy in a photograph? (after all, Raymond Depardon has 60+ years experience, it ought to be good). Or is it something else? Let us know in the comments down below.

(via Imaging Resource)

  • michaelp42

    It gets a reaction.  Job done if you ask me.  It’s a photo you’ll remember.

  • dwphotoblog

    For me photography is all about the light and this photo lacks any sort of magic at all. In supposedly trying to convey the average man they’ve instead succeeded  conveying average photographer. That’s the message I get from this image – poorly lit and composed.

  • Per-BKWine

     Except that the Chirac photo is better in all respects.

  • Lukas

    I see a “not-so-good” attempt to re-create the Chirac photo… thanks for sharing that gallery

  • Dave

    Top of the building cutting through his head? Are you joking?

  • Uwoluwu

    it’s like he is about to shake your hand… he is confident, has inner peace, he looks like a wise man, and he wants to be your friend
    i think it’s a very good picture
    it’s subtle… and most people don’t want subtle – they want classic, they want cliche, they want instagram…

  • Mark Wheadon

    It looks “normal” to me – so job done I guess.

  • Chip Johansen

    I think it is a pretty plain and uninspired photograph.  There is nothing here that says it was taken by a skilled photographer.  I wouldn’t be comfortable giving that photo to a client, no less a president.

  • Leandro Neves

    Unfortunately the photo pedantry is not confined to geographical barriers. I believed this was restricted to Brazil, but I see that is an international quality.

    If a photographer uses Photshop he is criticized by other photographers, but if it chooses to make a photo “simple” is criticized even more fierce.

    For more than two years left to participate in forums, groups, associations and collectives, tacitly, act as if they were the pinnacle of the national picture. Coincidentally or not, that’s when my work began to develop and create the body I was looking for.

    The criticisms and jokes with the work of Raymond Depardon is extremely petty. Jealousy sucks, but unfortunately it is also the force that drives some photographers.

    The only thing “overexposed” here is the ignorance of some idiots who lost the opportunity to keep quiet.

  • derekdj

    Perhaps Depardon is expressing his political views via the portrait?

    If you look at Depardon’s portfolio of work, they’re striking reportage images, even mundane subjects have visual impact. This portrait is technically mediocre and compositionally prosaic. 

  • JW

    At first glance I agreed with many of the comments here, that the picture is unremarkable, but after reading many of the comments, some thoughtful some less so, I believe this picture does succeed. He wants to distance himself from the flash and excess of his predecessor. The photo does bear similarities to Chirac’s but without arrogance. Yes, he is wearing a nice suit in a garden, which is distracting but one imagines the goal was to give the impression he was hard at work inside and saw one of his citizens in the distance and he strides out across that lawn and seems to be looking at the observer with a “yes, what is it? I have got work to do” expression. This is a political photo.

  • JW

     Yes, the ones NOT chosen are almost always even more interesting and revealing.

  • TEL

    I feel sorry for Raymond Depardon: 60+ years of experience and yet an entire generation of know-it-alls-come-photographers think they could do better. I have no doubt whatsoever that he will have been given a brief, something along the lines of “keep it simple, we want to make the president look like an average guy”.

    And that’s exactly what he’s done.

    And if the photo didn’t tick all the presidential boxes then why would they even release it? It’s about the president and the presidential image, not the photography.

  • TEL

    I’m pretty sure the president’s PR team will have chosen it out of a number of different shots, for which they have their own reasons. Whether or not Raymond Depardon was happy with it or not will be irrelevant.

  • Ziga

    excellent picture in right time

  • Ted Bautista

    I think the problem is people *don’t* want a ‘regular guy’ as their president. The last thing people want is to realize they voted for Homer Simpson.

  • John Kantor

    So there is hope for the French after all. They’ve actually recognized pretentious vacuity for what it is.

  • casinonelson

    It looks very everyday ordinary candid. I understand what he is going for. I like it

  • MrSamD

    Very amateurish. I would expect that atleast the photographer could frame his head in a clear background not against the roof line of a building.

  • Dsmith

    He forgot to tilt the camera.

  • Johannstuartweber

    the fence sitters always think they can do better. Have the people who critise actually done anything photography wise themselves? I doubt it. The majority of people cannot document nor even duplicate anything to the point of any aesthetic value or sense. Would bigger brighter flags and a chromed flagpoles have made the peanut gallery appreciate the President and photo more? Possible. 

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  • Ed: Sabot Images

    It was a TFP!

  • Steve Thornton

    On it’s face, the photo leaves me cold, no real connection, the BG is
    way over exposed, the main subject in dead in the middle of the
    image… it does not look like the work of a master photographer.


    We also do not know the time constraints the photographer had to work
    under, nor do we know if François Hollande was willing to go where
    the photographer really wanted him to stand or travel to either.
    Anytime one needs to shoot a very high level person, be public or
    private, we should not assume that they were given more than 5
    minutes to compose, light, direct & shoot. Nothing I have read
    here states what limitations the photographer had to work with.