Portraying the French and doing it with a 20x25 inch camera is no small thing. Éric Bouvet and Yan Morvan did not choose at random the most historical and monumental camera. At a time of selfies and furtive images, it is a question here of epic breath, Olympian posture, as in the majestic portraits of the Renaissance. It is also about connection and sharing. Photographing with the camera requires patience and know-how. The positioning of the tripod, the deployment of the body of the camera in bellows, the calculations of light, the rocking and shifting of the camera generate another relationship to time and people. It is still a question of solemnity. The two photographers took only one shot per portrait. Only one forward salto, no missed shots. Each portrait is a promise, an oath. It is finally a question of posterity and permanence. The film with a 20x25 inch camera is large, with infinite precision in the retranscription of colours and details. The negatives will still be readable in 100 years.
So here are the specifications of a project that took place over more than two years, from the political rupture represented by the presidential campaign of May 2017 to the trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic. 60,000 km have been travelled across the whole of France, except overseas. These specifications are important because they say everything about a respectful and ambitious project, which leaves it up to the French to present themselves. To represent themselves. And to speak out too, since the photographers have collected a bouquet of commitments, torments, anger, pride. The faces are plural, the voices are choral. A pedestal and fractures emerge. From the national novel to the multicultural fresco. From emancipatory history to the ideological battlefield.
France, then? Is it a territory, a heritage, a language, a climate, a fiction? For the historian Michelet two centuries ago, it was a soul and a person.