Cool Currency Portraits

Stacey Kole By Stacey Kole  |  Mar. 07, 2013

If world leaders were more like-minded, perhaps the elusive goal of world peace might be more attainable. But while international harmony remains a utopian dream for now, French photographer Philippe Petremant is doing his part to inch us closer. In his series ‘The Magnificent Seven’, the Lyon-based artist helps political figures past and present share — quite literally — a single head.

By creatively folding and paper-clipping together a slew of different banknotes, Petremant forms quirky portraits of leaders from across the globe. Portraits include Che Guevara dressed smartly in a suit and tie and Chairman Mao decked out in a cowboy hat and handlebar moustache. Queen Elizabeth II — the only female included — gets what is sure to be an unwelcome makeover when she dons former Singapore President Encik Yusof bin Ishak’s tiny chin and facial hair.

Obscure currencies turn certain pictures into a history lesson, especially in the case of Peruvian Admiral Miguel Grau — a famous Naval officer and military leader in The War of the Pacific — whose mutton-chop sideburns are prominent in one portrait conglomerate. Less recognizable is the forehead of a young Gambian girl, whose picture adorns the country’s 5 Dalasi note. Perhaps the most jarring of the series is an image of Mahatma Gandhi’s eyes on the face of Saddam Hussein, merging the admired peace-lover with a notorious mass murderer.

Funny, poignant, and thought-provoking, Petremant’s series embodies more than what initially meets the eye. But then again, the same could be said of most of the world’s greatest leaders — and maybe that’s the point.


Can you identify all of the portraits in this mashup?  Who else deserves to be immortalised on a banknote? Let us know in the comments.