Images of Power From Both Sides of the Pond

Did you know that Emmanuel Macron’s presidential portrait is almost identical to Barack Obama’s? On Presidents’ Day, let’s take a look at two official portraits that broke with tradition.

In June 2017, a few weeks after he was elected, French president Emmanuel Macron was photographed with a 3/4 shot in the American style by Soazig de la Moissonnière, his official photographer who accompanied him throughout his election campaign. Traditional symbols such as books, a clock, and the gilded features of the Elysée Palace are here combined with two iPhones in an illustration of modernity. Le Monde recently attributed this whittling down of paraphernalia to “American influence.” The paper drew a stylistic parallel between President Emmanuel Macron’s official portrait and Barack Obama’s second-term photo by Pete Souza, a digital image marking a break from the traditional oil paintings used to portray U.S. presidents until then.

Both presidents are shown posing near their desks (Macron leaning against his, and gripping with white-knuckle strength), flanked by two flags and with the background of an open window. In Macron’s case, the view is of the Elysée Palace gardens; the American president’s background is less identifiable. On Macron’s right is the Tricolor, with the flag of the European Union on his left. Alone among modern French presidents, Macron’s portrait reveals sections of a cluttered desk, including an antique gilt clock showing the time as 8:20 pm, two cellphones, a desk phone, and three books — De Gaulle’s Mémoires de guerre, Stendhal’s novel Le Rouge et le Noir, and André Gide’s Nourritures Terrestres.

But it is perhaps the choice of the photographer that shows the main similarity between the portrait of Emmanuel Macron and that of Barack Obama, Le Monde wrote. “Obama had chosen Pete Souza, one of his official photographers since 2008. In the same way, Emmanuel Macron chose the only photographer entitled to follow his career, Soazig de la Moissonnière. In this way, the president’s communication team controls his image as closely as possible.”

=> Read more about the official portraits of French and American presidents in the February 2019 issue of

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