LISBON: In 2004, the French-Syrian photojournalist photographed Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8.
The queen’s death was a sad moment. I mean, I’m not a British subject, but I feel we all knew her. She was definitely someone exceptional. This could mean good or bad things, but she was certainly unusual, partly because of the length of her reign. Seventy years is, like, the longest reign ever.
She was there when I was a kid. She’s part of our picturesque world. You knew about Disney characters, about The Beatles. These were images that composed our world. And the Queen is one of them.
In 2004, I was sent by the French agency Abaca Press to cover the visit of Jacques Chirac to the UK. On this day, he was expected at Windsor Castle to meet the Queen. And he was late. So, she was waiting for him. At some point, it seemed like she was a bit angry. She looked out of the door, as many of us would do, thinking: ‘Where is he? What’s he doing?’
It has this very spontaneous, almost childish, look to it. I’ve photographed many people, but none of them had this sense of humor. For me, it was a very surprising photo, because usually all the pictures of the Queen are very posed and shot by famous portraitists. It’s quite unusual to see her in this way. As a photographer, I always look for a contrast or something unusual.
Technically, when I look at it, I would probably have done it differently. You can see the shadow of the flash behind her. It’s not a perfect picture at all. But, again, it’s a very candid moment, a very spontaneous moment.
Many people wanted to know more about this photo. They tell me: “I don’t see her like this. She looks like us. She seems very human… She’s not the Queen anymore — she’s a lady waiting for someone and losing patience.”
This photo really just captures a fraction of a second. It didn’t last more than a second, this look. But it’s frozen forever. She has left us for a different world, but the photo will remain.