March 16, 2017 3:21 PM EDT

France’s version of the Rust Belt is just two hours north of majestic Paris, but when TIME photographer Christopher Morris and I traveled around the area it felt, in parts, like another country. Here, amid the shuttered factories and for-rent signs on the storefronts, regular folk – like the ones in these photographs – told us their leaders had abandoned them in the rush towards globalization and a more powerful E.U. In this week’s magazine we describe “The Power of Le Pen.”

For French right-wing politician Marine Le Pen, their exasperation is fertile terrain for her anti-immigrant, France-First presidential campaign. We found among Le Pen’s followers longtime left-wing voters, business people, union activists, and even African immigrants. After years of stunted dreams and economic prospects, many told us they had given up waiting for mainstream politicians to bring relief. “This is our Detroit,” explained one local historian, who sees similarities between this voter anger and the frustration that brought Donald Trump to power.

Le Pen hopes for a Trump-like shock victory in the two-round presidential elections, on April 23 and May 7. Polls suggest a wave of opposition from left- and right-wing voters will defeat her in the second round; then again, polls suggested Trump would lose, and that Britain would reject the Brexit vote. And at 49, Le Pen is still relatively young, and could inch her way slowly towards the Elysée Palace in the years ahead. If she does, she’ll have some of the people in these photos to thank.

Michelle Molloy, who edited this photo essay, is a senior international photo editor at TIME.

Christopher Morris, an award winning TIME contract photographer since 1990, is a founding member of the VII photo agency. He is the author of the books My America and Americans.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at

You May Also Like