CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC. August 2014. Elias won the Rémi Ochlik Award for his work in the Central African Republic, where he followed 20 men from the French Foreign Legion. Part 1 of the serie.

Photograph n°1: French Foreign Legion soldiers are waiting for the next patrol on Aug. 24 .

Photograph n°2: French Foreign Legion soldiers are hiding behind sandbags on Aug. 16.

Photograph n°3: French Foreign Legion soldiers wait in the camp of Bria on Aug. 23.

Photograph n°4: A French Foreign Legion soldier is getting his head shaved.

Photograph n°5: French Foreign Legion soldiers are preparing for a long patrol in the east of Central African Republic on Aug. 20.

Elias first went to the Central African Republic in August of 2014, a few months after sectarian violence claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people. He had seen the work of photographers such as William Daniels and Michael Zumstein, who had also covered the conflict, and wanted to cover the tense situation in the country from a new angle. “I thought I would embed with the French army because it hadn’t been done before,” he says. “Randomly, I ended up with the French Foreign Legion. At first, I thought I would look at France’s military engagement in the country but, in the end, my work changed and became about these men. I didn’t expect them to welcome me the way they did. We developed a real relationship to the point that they forgot I was a photographer. I was able to document their lives.”

Photograph: Edouard Elias