It was an overwhelming sight that met photographer Nicolas Righetti when he arrived in Dasmascus in May 2007. Preparations for the coming election were in full swing and the city was smothered with one image, that of the unopposed President, Bashar al’Assad, who was to be re-elected another seven years. From monumental portraits to publicity handouts in both public and private spaces, the ruler of Syria became unavoidable and the message was clear; 'Yes To A Rosy Future' was emblazoned on campaign posters everywhere.
‘Yes To A Rosy Future’ documents Righetti’s stay in Syria and presents the photos taken during this time, captioned with statements from Bashar al’Assad’s official speeches. An afterword by Christian Bråndle, director of the Zurich Design Museum, considers the relationship between the ruler and his people and how his image is used to hint at his omnipresence – a smiling face, always there for his loyal subjects.
With the Arab Spring and the protests that took place in Syria starting in early 2011, this relationship was questioned and tested. One thing is certain – Bashar al’Assad is still there for his people, whether they want him to be or not. The propagandistic images and slogans of 2007 have taken on a new relevance: images of triumphant power and his obdurate statements reveal a completely different portrait, that of the smiling face of repression.