In the town where I live (Grasse, France), there is an enclave known as Ste. Anne. Geographically, it appears to be encircled by the municipality of Grasse, but it is a small valley with a distinct atmosphere. The main road into Grasse dips down and curves around the edge of this valley. At the main turn-off into Ste Anne there is a large signboard that is visible to vehicular traffic going into Grasse itself. This signboard regularly features large posters – typically but not always political ones. (Sometimes, they are advertising a circus nearby.) It’s the unusual flow of political posters that has caught my eye.
Fair enough, I became aware of the unusual nature of these posters during elections, of which there were quite a series here in France recently – municipal ones in 2020, regional and departmental ones in 2021, and presidential and national legislative ones in 2022. But I had also come to understand that official campaigning in France is usually limited to a brief periods (like two weeks or such) before each election – and that polling locations would install signboards with large posters of all candidates (or candidate lists) in that short period. This Ste. Anne signboard was not associated with any polling location, and it regularly had candidate posters long before any “official” campaign season.
In fact, this particular billboard seemed to attract competing factions of the extreme right and extreme left. One day you would see the posters featuring the face of one or other leader from the extreme right, and the next day, those posters had been covered with graffiti or ripped to shreds, only to be replaced the next day with posters featuring the face of a leader from the extreme left. It has given me the impression that this little cul de sac of Ste. Anne has quite a battle going on. And definitely a battle of the extremes.
Last year, I started photographing the posters. 2022 was the year for both presidential elections (in April) and national legislative elections (in June). The focus at first was entirely on the presidential elections, In January , for example, posters supporting a rising star and presidential candidate of the extreme right, Eric Zemmour, showed up:
Shortly thereafter, the Zemmour posters were hidden under a new set of posters for the presidential candidate of the extreme left- Jean-Luc Mélanchon.
Then in February. shortly after these posters had appeared, there came another set – for Marine Le Pen!
For some reason, these did not last long. Somebody destroyed them, only to be followed shortly thereafter by a new array of posters for the Mölanchon candidate’s political party.
But these, too, did not last long. And then there appeared a string of posters that were quickly destroyed, one on top of the previous one.
Then there was a rotation, once again – first of Mélanchon and then of Le Pen.
And then back to Mélanchon – but this time, shortly after the first round of the presidential election, where he had come in third. The run-off was between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. Here is Mélanchon with a new strategy – announcing his candidacy for Prime Minister, regardless of who might win the run-off for President.
Only to be replaced once again by a poster for Marine Le Pen.
Only after all of this had moved to the legislative front did one come across quite a different set of posters. Still nothing to do with the incumbent Emmanuel Macron, of course. But this time, it was a set of posters supporting the right-of-center Republican candidate for the National Assembly, here with Mayor Jerome Viaud, whose endorsement he clearly needed.
All of this happened until mid-summer, after which the signboard was either blank or advertised the local circus.
But then, to my surprise, I was walking in the neighborhood on a chilly January afternoon in this new year of 2023. What should I behold but a return of Marine Le Pen! Well, yes, she appears on the most recent set of posters. But look at the bottom left. There is a sign for La France Insoumise – the Mélanchon party of the extreme left. No elections are on the horizon, but we are about to experience a series of strikes and protests again a major effort by President Macron to enact a big pension reform package. Hmmmm.