Zouaves - Camp de Chalons , Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.
Formed in 1855 as "an army of the Orient" for the war in the Crimea, the Imperial Guard included a regiment of black Algerian Zouave soldiers. In 1857 Napoleon III established a military camp east of Paris at Châlon-sur-Marne for twenty-five thousand men of the Imperial Guard and commissioned Le Gray to document life in the camp. Le Gray's lodgings in the Imperial quarter faced the Zouave camp, where he made eight photographs of the regiment. He filled his compositions with figures as though he were attempting to register each varied aspect of dress, ethnicity, and gesture in one frame. Only two or three men appear at all aware of or interested in Le Gray's presence; they go about their daily routine without affectation or self-consciousness.