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)

  • Jens Hamada

    hey i can do as good as one of the best french photographer… great. :)

  • Prashin Jagger

    It’s the person that matters here, not the rest of it. I think this is a really well taken photo.

  • Jens Hamada

    well it´s an average photo of an average guy…. that i can agree too.

  • Dan Howard

    I can see why they were going for what they were going for, but this just looks like anyone could take it. It looks like “anyone” did take it.

    There is no style in this photograph. He doesn’t look important and neither does the background.

    Should have got Dave Hill to take it, that would have set the world on fire.

  • Chuck Marcelo

    Where’s the picture of Romney with a leaf blower?

  • SK

    Who cares? Really… Ppl have waaay to much time on their hands or not enough significantly more pressing issues to be concerned about. 

  • Jens Hamada
  • Taylormahoney25

    Although not a ‘typical’ presidential portrait, that isn’t what the campaign wanted. This is simple, sharp, technically well done and un-pretentious. I agree that it is not particularly ‘presidential’ but it does speak volumes in a subtle way. French and E.U. flags and classic French architecture speak to place and a subject who looks like a regular, approachable person speak to what this president wants to be. I like it…

  • Ahmad Amryl Abd Malek

    It looks like just about anybody standing in a garden with some buildings at the back. And really looks like a normal shot, no grandeur and dramatic, just a normal guy with some normal shot. Which is perfect for a President wanting to steer away from the “excesses” of the Sarkozys’.

  • Nick

    Looks like a badly done corporate shoot with an awkward business man, with only 5 minutes to get the shot done and no assistants to help with the lighting. (My speciality lol). Background comp is poor and kind of a split exposure – too light at the top. Takes your eyes away from the main man. Other than that I love it ;-) It doesn’t have any of that thing the french might say. I don’t know what! Probably the entourage and art directors, bearing in mind the experience of the photographer.

  • Seoras

    I don’t mind it. Its a well made (see below) and daring image.
    My only criticism would be the odd juxtaposition of the figure to the background, something uncomfortable about that.

  • Luis Cardona

    It is a fine line that separates the fool from the wiseman” This is true with this picture that looks as if could have been taken with a point and shoot. But if one cares to look closely it’s brilliant. It is supposed to look like YOU TOOK THE PICTURE. You know him… there isn’t darkened skies or pretentious photoshoppin’ A photographer with this much experience would just get a picture and make sure the new French President looks like he is there to simplify things in a tough time.

  • Cy Leow

     As long as the president & his spin doctor are happy, you think they care about your 5 cent words? When you are as well known as Depardon you can shoot a crap picture and sill laughing to the bank ;)

  • donniefitz2

    The thing that bothers me most are his hands. They just don’t know where to be. 

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I personally like this photo. I don’t really care if the buildings and flags are overexposed – that’s what happens when you expose for something in the foreground. of course you could have exposed for the background and then used various lights/reflectors to get the President exposed correctly but that wouldn’t be what they were going for. Depardon has fulfilled the brief. well done, sir!

  • Mark

    Renowned photographer??? lol  It is absolutely pathetic. It looks like it has be taken by a complete novice. No attention to background detail, awkward pose and terrible use of exposure ( some of the background is way over exposed ) Looks more like my postman than a president.  

  • Jon

    I agree that it is not an expertly constructed image. I don’t like the composition, the pose, or the expression. It is supposed to look ordinary and it does. It reminds me of the age-old question of if you are trying to fail and you succeed at it, have you succeed or failed? The bottom line is that if you were to remove the names of the subject and the photographer, 99% of people would say it is not a professionally created photograph and is merely average. That being said, the time of day and time allotted may have been very difficult and perhaps this is all he could do but I have to say, it’s really not a great image. It could be anyone’s vacation photo standing in front of a badly-framed historical French building. I’m just not a fan.

  • Vincent

    The posing is suspect. Not really Statesmanlike. He should have been represented in a more formal way. It seems to me that this was the intention of the snapper…a formal portrait, but in an informal way…if you get my drift.. But it has failed in that the attitude, the gait of the President is not strong or assertive enough for one in his position. The limp, dead hands, just so badly placed. The horizon line of the rooftops is cutting into the mans head. Perhaps a lower angle could have averted this and also, if the subject had been placed further to the left of the frame (as we look at it)..he would be between the two background buildings. In a sense, this, with a different lens choice, elevation, would have created the image I feel the photographer was looking for. It would be really interesting to see the other images from the series, just to make comparisons. But, however, this is the one that was released and so the photographer must stand over it.

  • Brian Dwyer

    I am no Genius but pointless imagry… It probably would have impressed if it was iPhoned with instragram…. But that on the other hand 90% oi
    f people Cant shoot a Single Frame anymore no matter how much money they plow into canon/nikon… Average is the future unfortunately… Hopefully it will make gods of the great who work their asses off and so called photographers/brand names will be quickly forgotten.. i Wont hold my breath tho….

  • Niall

    If he sticks his right hand in his pocket and puffs out his chest it would help the photo a lot but…the photographer was obviously under instructions to create an ‘ordinary guy’ image and that’s what he delivered, so i guess that’s being a good pro.

  • murhaaya

    As others have said, he looks like he does not know what to do with his hands. His posture signifies more a spinal problem than the fact that he is a head of a state. A firm but not too overdone, not to “american” like would be much better.

    what bugs me is the tree on the right. It just does not feel balanced. Seems more of a snapshop than top notch statesman photo.

    You could shove the fact that the photographer is best french photographer in my face a zillion times but to me and my eye, this looks bad.

  • The_photographer_Tom

    Personally I find it to be nothing special. I would have turned the background down by another stop or so. I also dislike the fact that he’s been placed bang in the centre of the frame.
    The empty space top right also bugs me.

  • Jean

    To compare, there are the official photos of the 6 first presidents of the 5th french republic:

  • Jean

    Depardon is first of all a documentary filmaker… not a fashion shooter… He’s speciality is realism. And that’s why he has been choosen: to shoot a normal guy, a true guy not an icon.

  • DaGuerre

     The pose is stiff and lacking in imagination. I would love to see what was not picked.

  • Sir_Elton_Juan

    Oh who cares? he’s a socialist anyways.

  • Miguel Garcia, I ♥☁

    It’s just not a good photo. From framing, to lighting, posture !

  • Ndt

    Simply Awful! There are infinitely better ways to convey the message they were trying to send the viewer. This is totally amateurish. I would be embarrassed to put my name to it.

  • JL Andrade

    The rhetoric of the photo is good, gives the right message. Large gardens, the palace and the flags (2 French, 1 EU), even if overexposed. But the problem is that this is not a normal guy, is the French President in a bad posture for the ambient. Almost like a tourist who just happens to be there.The use of wide lens don’t help, deforms a little the proportion of the head and lower body and the hands dropped make in uncomfortable and unknowing of his surroundings, passing the same idea to the viewer. Not a good idea to have about the man leading a country.The idea of a normal guy shouldn’t be confused with a normal photography, but that’s not the job of a photographer.

  • Nick

    As photographers, we spend our time learning how to make normal guys look statesmanlike and the brief for this was to make a statesman look normal! Which is more ‘real’ is another matter. He is a politician after all ;-)

    There’s a difference between looking ‘normal’ in a photo and just a bad photo.

  • unkl

    I agree. A Frisbee would help.

  • Dean W. Thompson

    I’m pretty sure I love this photo.

  • stephankent

    Mentally masturbate all you want, but the picture is crap both technically and aesthetically. It screams awkward, telling me as much about the shooter as the subject. Most portrait shoots start out with a frame like this, then get better. The trick is to set the subject at ease while making the technical stuff appear simple. Done well, the photographer’s people skills will open the door to a few honest an often fleeting moments that make for a truly great portrait.

  • Vsouthard4886

    It’s a very formal semi stiff pose in a suit in a casual garden environment. It does not signify anything really, he should have been in a formal setting with that suit.The photo could have been taken by anyone with a simple camera. 

  • Jeffrey Lee

    I think they were trying too hard ‘not’ to do something, which is a bad way to be. There’s so many things that are “wrong” about it, but it was done with an eye towards being atypical. Complain all you want, but if the client walks away with something they wanted, then it would have to count as a success in my mind. I may not choose to have it in my portfolio, but you’d also have to give up on controlling who sees your work when you photograph subjects such as this. If a high powered politico has poor taste in photo aesthetics, what really are going to do?

  • Anonymous

    Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. So why debate on such a thing?

  • Kathleen Grace

    This looks so unlike a presidential portrait than anything – it’s crap, poor composition and poor technique.

  • miklos

    What’s best about this is that I will have forgotten it by tomorrow.

  • yellowtie

    A President will never be viewed as “normal” to everyone else. As the position he has is the symbol for a lot of things including power, then the OFFICIAL portrait should have been your “typical” official photo. Then maybe, for his other photos he could have been that regular guy, talking to people on the street type of thing.

    Composition wise, he could have improved it. The leaves/branch on the right side is distracting. Stance is akward, as if it was a candid shot. Crop right and probably just up to the waist, with his hand folded would have been a neater shot imo.

    But hey, the photographer had a vision and also a directive to shoot casual. And the photo was probably approved by a lot of people before it came out right.

  • Tzctplus -

    The hands …. they unnerve me, I don’t know why exactly, their idleness perhaps, but I suppose posing them would look corny in most situations… Suggestions for posing?


  • Jwolfphotography

    Picture sucks – big time- come on you Frenchies  hire American. No one saved u like us  we will offer continued support. JW 

  • yoda

    I think it’s pretty cool. I also don’t understand the criticism. Was this supposed to be a Napoleon-esque portrait ? Was that what people expected ? Good. Then this photo makes its point. Hollande is a socialist and wants to be seen as a man of the people. 

  • yoda

    Also, the hands are a nice touch, I think. Kind of makes him look as if he’s coming towards you. Which is what he wants to convey. This is precisely what gives this photo merit. 

  • Dontrain

    The picture strikes me as a man surrounded by the faded trappings of empire past.

  • Financeguyin212

    Big failure by the photographer

    – very weak pose also facing head on to the camera
    – eye is drawn to brightest part of picture. He is underexposed. Background is overexposed
    – line cutting through his head
    – flatly lit
    – lack texture, dimension and mood

  • Michael Godek

     id agree….technically it’s terrible, and to be honest the concept doesn’t come across, it looks like an average picture of an important person, not like a good picture of an average person

  • Tony

    je ne sais quoi

  • 9inchnail

    His pose is awful, he looks really insecure and not like a leader. He’s trying to present himself as the Average Joe after the french people was fed up with their fabulous Sarkozy (look at me, I’m dating a model). That’s not a bad idea but you still have to gain respect by your peers and in this case, his peers are world leaders. 

  • Ató Aracama

    This picture it´s 10 points. Y love it. 

  • Decker

    I find it interesting that Chirac’s picture is quite similar:

    Chirac: no hands, big building, large flag.
    Hollande: hands in front, tiny flag