Merchants of Death

A photographer captures the glamor and flash of international weapons shows. Guillaume Herbaut/INSTITUTE

Just like cars and lingerie, tanks and missiles have their own shows. These events, known as war shows, are not well known to the general public. But they draw large numbers of people from the global defense industry. In Jordan, France, Qatar, and India, photographer Guillaume Herbaut visited these modern-day arms bazaars where militaries can purchase weapons like missiles, tanks, drones, riot gear—even solid gold pistols. The arms and weapons industry is a worldwide business, whose main exporters last year were the U.S., Russia, China, Ukraine, and the European Union. In the same year, the total global military expenditure was estimated to be $1.7 trillion. It’s a world where power, money, and technology intersect: a global death market.

Gun Show At a conference called SOFEX in Amman, Jordan, members of the international defence industry gather to focus on the tactics and technology of special operations. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show Jordanians inspect guns made by a Turkish company at SOFEX, the Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show A gun on display at the Eurosatory Exhibition in Paris. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show A low-flying plane and rows of Bedouin guards kick off the Special Forces Exhibition and Conference in Amman, Jordan. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show Visitors at the Eurosatory Exhibition in France kick the tires on the Battle Tank MBT, made by the German company Rheinmetall. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show The Middle East Special Operations Commanders Conference in Jordan brought in over 500 delegates from international special operations forces and the military industry. Here, a moment at the entrance of the Royal Hotel in Amman during the conference. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show This golden gun for sale in France is made by the Turkish company Sasilmaz. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show At the Defexpo India opening ceremony, the man with the sunglasses is a delegate from Belarus. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show Billowy black rises during a weapons demonstration at the opening of the weapons conference in Jordan. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show In New Delhi at the Defexpo India weapons show, two civilians wield weapons at a stand run by Arsenal, a Bulgarian company. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show Members of the Jordanian military greet visitors with tea at their booth during the weapons show and conference in Amman. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show A vendor’s stand at the Milipol Qatar exhibition in Doha. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show Masaku Paul Mutul, a representative from the Kenyan military, tries out a weapon in New Delhi. Guillaume Herbaut


Gun Show The Turkish company Sarsilmaz uses the image of a woman—and a horse—to sell handguns at the weapons conference in Amman. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show A moment from a live weapons demonstration in France. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show Blue saris and smiles adorn the two hostesses from weapons maker Ordnance Factory Board, a part of the Indian Ministry of Defense. Guillaume Herbaut

Gun Show These missiles on display in France are made by the Israeli company Rafael Air Defense. Guillaume Herbaut



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