The zouaves enjoyed an immense popularity under the Second Empire that was owed to more than their exotic accouterments. Their bravery in combat, notably during the Crimean War, won them numerous honors and decorations, which their wore proudly.
They organized several performances at the Chalons camp, to the pleasure of the Emperor and his guests. The Arab celebration improvised on the evening of September 15, 1857 was performed again in honor of the Duke de Cambridge, two days later.
They lent themselves willingly to posing before the camera lens and Le Gray photographed them in a manner completely different from that which he used for the other corps. He had them pose in a series that recounted their daily life in camp.