It was to be a spring interlude in the 2012 race for the White House. Two journalists—seasoned veterans of American campaigns—sought to explore another red, white, and blue presidential race, in France, where feisty incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy was battling chronic underdog François Hollande , with far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen playing “third man” with a vengeance. Over a whirlwind 20 days, White House-accredited TV correspondent Laurence Haïm—a woman respected from afar in her native France—and Charles Ommanney, an award-winning photojournalist who has covered the White House for Newsweek, witnessed the mêlée for the Elysée Palaces with insights gleaned from years in Washington. Their book, Made in France: The Presidential Campaign Seen Through The American Eye, out this week in France, is a striking collection of annotated black-and-white photographs.
The book’s surprisingly intimate opening frames, after the first-round vote on April 22, capture a joyful Le Pen embracing her controversial dad, Jean-Marie, and celebrating their party’s record score. The last shots are all but candid: the victor Hollande alongside U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, a mass of dark-suited aides and reporters looking on. In between, they capture the adventure of dueling campaigns, from unscripted moments to grand pageantry. “We descended on this French campaign with our American spirit. We knew no one. We wanted to show the facts. Without opinion,” Haïm writes in the book. “In the spring of 2012, it was simple. The place to be was France.”