Baptiste Giroundon

Working with Democracy

This project is a photographic research of the concept of Democracy. As a photo reporter I try to work on contemporary issues implying a wider angle rather than just the next morning front page. As an artist I work with the single image process, which comes from a personal wish to show the world with a sharp and thoughtful point of view.

In every story I work on, I find myself facing a different situation that almost constantly brings up democracy. This isn’t advocacy for, or a critic of democracy, but the intention is to show where and how in different aspects of our globalized world, this concept can be understood, reclaimed and put forward. I have chosen democracy as a common factor not only to describe a blurry concept, but also to raise a question that everyone shares: what has democracy become today?

Art and photojournalism exist in what Susan Sontag has termed ‘febrile rivalry’ and my intentions equal those of a tightrope walker trying to express himself without falling to one side or another. My approach stands in the news media and I look for raw material in countries that make the headlines. The thread of the project is Lincoln’s famous quote: “the power to the people, by the people, for the people”, elections, demonstrations, public maters and revolutions are examples for me to draw sketches of pictorial symbols of Democracy.

I am aware of the effectiveness of both my experience and my naivety, I use them both as much as I can into the research, the act of photographing, the editing, and are my only weapons I can use to fight.




With my father’s old camera I left to Argentina when I was 17 years old. This is where I started photojournalism. In 2001 the country fell into a terrible economic crash. I understood that today Photojournalism should avoid the cynical perception; it should be used as a positive tool, not to mention the need to find new ways of assimilating and representing the real. After my first exhibition of the Argentina’s pictures, I worked on a long term project that focused on the backstage of the politic, fashion and cinema industries. It was exhibited as a personal show in Paris (AAA gallery) and Brussels (Jonas Gallery). After a few collective exhibition on my new project “Working with Democracy”, I just finished a story in Egypt: Life after the revolution. Today I keep working for magazines, newspaper and personal projects.


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Baptiste Giroudon


34 thoughts on “Baptiste Giroudon – Working with Democracy”

  1. What a big task! I am not sure if it isn’t a little big for photography as these photos don’t really work without descriptions (at least for me – when not reading them I must admit that I don’t get the meaning at all). But maybe I am just a lazy thinker.

  2. Love the work. It’s a strong collection of images. Though I do think it would work better on walls in a gallery than in a sequential presentation as here. The limitations of the medium of web slideshows makes this feel disjointed, but in a setting where I could wander through the work in any order and see relationships of pictures next to one another or across from one another, I think it would work very well.

  3. I really like the essay Baptiste, congratulations on being published here. I’m intrigued by your use of colour in the essay (which you use to great effect, in my opinion); it’s not easy to produce a colour essay with a consistent look (feel) but you do it here. Is it a touch of bleach bypass? I’d very much apreciate an outline of your workflow. Congratulations once again, I’ll check out you website soonest.


  4. Congratulations on your essay appearing here Baptiste.

    There are many things to like about this work.
    First, I love the fact that it represents a look at seemingly ordinary moments in a wide variety of contemporary issues, personalities, and places.
    At the same time, there is such a strong sense of place, familiarity, it is un-canny.
    I love the singles concept. Each image is very self contained, yet they are all tied together with the very formal and understated compositons, and the rendering which is subdued. (I love the rendering and like Mike am curious about how it is achieved).
    It occured to me, after going through your website, that many of these images appear to almost mimic the wax museum tableaus that appear in some of your work there. The first image in particular is at once humerous and surreal, but also somehow profoundly disturbing. The stars and stripes tablecloths are the most bizarre element.
    These are some of the most understated, yet most powerful set of images I’ve seen here on burn.


  5. The stars and stripes tablecloths are the most bizarre element. Not really when you consider it is a US military base what did you expect clean white tablecloths, a imitation Afghan carpet design?

  6. First off, congratulations on being published here! And to the Burn staff for consistently showcasing great photography :)

    I believe this essay is up there with the best that’s been published here. Its contemporary, arresting, and visually beautiful. But more important is the scope that this work covers which allows for a more cohesive train of thought.. Looking at photographs is part meditation, and this essay – the way it’s composed, the images that were selected – is really conducive to that.

    I love your first three images, they’re overwhelming in a sense. Larger than life.. Men doing their jobs – jobs that are (at first glance) disassociated with the larger idea that these images question.

    Super interesting juxtaposition between 5 and 6. Guantanamo Bay and the thoughts that it brings in to focus contrasted with a children’s playground surrounded by a white picket fence.. Both have such alien surroundings which just adds to the complexity.

    9.. a clean image, a blank slate, a new democracy born..

    11 through 16 can represent the uglier side of democracy. 17, attempts at cleaning. And 18.. the results of? War? The fight for democracy?

    Many questions…

    Your gaze is in the right direction, thank you.

    What has democracy become today?

    Participatory for some… people may feel entitled to x, y, and z without having to earn it.

    A burden in some respects… there’s no denying that living in a democracy allows for certain freedoms and more choice in how to live life, however, we pay for these things.

    Tolerable… by allowing people to voice their opinions whether right or wrong.

    Complacent.. democracy itself is not complacent, but I feel that it enables complacency in people. Or rather that there’s so much background noise in a democratic society that it becomes difficult for someone to really be.. in touch. Consumerism plays a large part in this “you need x, y, and z…”
    my 2 cents.

  7. Once democracy was mentioned anything can be read into the images at will ……………………the images themselves are run of the mill magazines/newspaper stuff.
    Some are somewhat inane eg image 17 the caption says that he participates in events the caption may as well say he cleans up after a brake fluid spill all a much ado of nothingness.

    This should read …… “My approach stands in the news media and I look for raw material in countries that make UP the headlines.”……. Nothing wrong with that it is democracy at work but it isn’t impartial as he also implies.
    Generally I feel that the photographer is reading more/creating more in the situations than what there is.

  8. Inmant, Gordon,
    I’m also quite surprised to find US national flags as table clothes, even in a military base! I expected white table clothes!
    To me it feels like intense propaganda.
    Maybe soon a photo essay about table clothes in military bases around the world?

    congratulations for the essay!

    I especially appreciate the strong visual expressions on many of the faces here (among 1, 2, 3 ,9, 12, 14)

    Like Mike and Gordon, I’m also curious about the technical aspects of your process. What about the flash?

    I like the set, but I feel the subject of “democracy” quite vast, so it’s difficult to see the continuity of the essay without the captions. But at the end, it works.

    A nice personal essay built out of what seems to be news assignments. No problem with that. The difficulty is how to build up a strong personal “style” (“authorship”)?

  9. I think I would have been fine with this if I had not read the text first – or better yet, never read the text. Baptiste has some strong images that do raise the question of the title, particularly #1, as well as several good pictures that one might never associate with that theme.

    As to the text, in general I was finding it riding the hard edge of hyperbole and then I got to the “quote” from Abraham Lincoln. That really threw me off. I understand that English is a second or maybe even a third or fourth language here, but, if one is going to quote what may be the most famous line ever written and uttered by one the two most famous of American presidents, please take five seconds to google that quote and get it right.

    This is what Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address:

    that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and “that government of the people, by the people, for the people,” shall not perish from the earth.

    I may seem a little pedantic here, but to me the difference between “that government of” and “the power to” is significant – and all Baptiste needed to do was google.

    Still – strong essay and I am very impressed with Baptiste’s ability to hop about the world and to gain access even to Guantanamo and come away with good pictures that state his viewpoint.

  10. for me , only the first image has any chance of standing. It can be read, and its quite a strong image.
    The rest are just blah, held together with captions. Three guys sitting by a river…so what?
    A fat G.I by a burger bar….WOW! Cannot see the point of this at all, or where it will get its legs from.


  11. I like this kind of thing. Of course from just looking at the pictures I would never guess that it was about democracy, but I would see that it is about more than the content of the individual photos. I like work that raises questions yet provides no easy answers. And I, too, like the subdued palette here.

    That first picture is very interesting interesting. What’s up with the meal? Is that what he’s eating? Is it what the soldiers typically eat? Is it an exaggerated setup? It must contain at least 3500 calories.

  12. Put an iphone on that table next to the food and plastic water bottle and you’ve got what democracy is all about.

  13. I’m also quite surprised to find US national flags as table clothes, even in a military base! I expected white table clothes!
    To me it feels like intense propaganda.

    Jerome, this is how we do in America! 4th of July, Veteran’s day, Thanks Giving etc..flags everywhere…Stars and stripes bikinis, shirts, tablecloths , everything and everywhere..its absolutely in the culture..everyhome has a flag, every garage a flag, every car has a flag..and im not talking about Bible Belt states no..everywhere..especially after 9/11 flags everywhere.its part of the culture….and of course in a military base thats the most expected, decoration, styling etc…
    Its like a fetish…in my travels, only in Turkey ive seen a way more exaggerated/developed FLAG fetish than here in the US…

  14. Panos, Inmants,
    thanks for the feedback about flags. I know everyday a bit more about US culture with Burn!
    Few years ago as I was in Germany, it had been quite a event when German suddenly dared show their flag…
    Actually, thinking of it, I brought my french flag with me to China, but it’s still in the box… I had no reason to get it out, France didn’t win any worldcup…

  15. only in Turkey ive seen a way more exaggerated/developed FLAG fetish than here in the US
    Come to Thailand, Panos. At the same time, thais do not brandish their flags or commercialize it as tableclothes or the likes, but it is maybe the most ubiquitous feature in the country (with 100 watts unshaded light bulbs, not always ar night only!).

    In agreement with Imants, I think the essay visual stance (portraits shot “objectively” within a highly subjective context/background) are also quite ubiquitous, which may not be a problem, but these pictures strangely lack impact as a whole, and do not renew a style of narrative we are now accustonmed to.

    The text is definitely within the Burn norm…. Oh well!

  16. Panos, for a lot of people in the South, the battle flag and the Confederate national flags do not have a bad reputation; they are symbols of Southern heritage. African Americans are going to look at those flags quite differently, but that, I think, is to be expected; the view from the slave cabins was always different than it was from the gallery of the plantation house.

  17. This group of photographs has been very much on my mind.

    With the springboard thought of “democracy”, and just the state of the world, the state of my world, our shared humanity, each photograph brings to mind a flood of thoughts.

    Like Jerome, I very much appreciate and respond to the direct gaze and expressions of the subjects. I feel very connected. In my mind, captions, and little cloud balloons of the subjects thoughts appear. Write your own caption, or cloud balloon for each image.

    #1. I’m here for the money. I’m scared shitless myself and my family will be murdered because of it.
    #2 This is just bullshit.
    #3 I’m terrified
    #5 I’m proud to serve my country and protect the American way of life.
    #12 What the fuck am I doing here

    I could go on and on.

    Each photo starts a whole story in my head, and a dialogue with myself. This is powerful stuff. This is what photographs can do, and be.

  18. Gordon,
    this is exactly that! laughing! The perfect captions for an essay about democracy in Afghanistan/Guantanamo/Dubai/Egypt/France…

  19. Relevant to the photos: Man, I love that first shot. Just perfect. THANK YOU!

    Not relevant to the photos: It always bugs me to see the American flag stamped on stupid disposable shit. After the T-shirt gets worn out, after the paper plates get used, and in this case, after the tablecloth gets used, what happens to them? They get tossed. It just seems very disrespectful of the flag.

  20. The first two images are the strongest for me and then number 14, I find the essay gets lost in the rest of the photos. The light and colours in those images is great, and they are also the most intense!
    congrats for making it on burn!

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