Saturday, April 23, 2011


Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau (left) and André Kertész, 1975
Author Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Wien
From Wikipedia

Robert Doisneau (April 14, 1912, Gentilly, Val-de-Marne – April 1, 1994) was a French photographer. In the 1930s he used a Leica on the streets of Paris; together with Henri Cartier-Bresson he was a pioneer of photojournalism. He is renowned for his 1950 image Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville), a photo of a couple kissing in the busy streets of Paris.
As a young man Doisneau attended the École Estienne in Paris to learn the crafts involved in the book trade, but he always claimed that the streets of the working class neighbourhood of Gentilly provided his most important schooling. In 1929, in an effort to improve his draftsmanship, he began photographing, just as Modernist ideas were beginning to promote photography as the prime medium for advertising and reportage. Doisneau first worked for the advertising photographer André Vigneau, in whose studio he met artists and writers with avant-garde ideas, and then during the Depression years of the 1930s he worked as an industrial photographer for the Renault car company. During the same period, Doisneau also photographed in the streets and neighbourhoods of Paris, hoping to sell work to the picture magazines, which were expanding their use of photographs as illustration.
With his career interrupted by World War II and German occupation, Doisneau became a member of the resistance, using his métier to provide forged documents for the underground. In 1945 he recommenced his advertising and magazine work, including fashion photography and reportage for Vogue magazine from 1948 to 1952. His first book of his photographs, La Banlieue de Paris (1949; “The Suburbs of Paris”) was followed by many volumes of photographs of Paris and Parisians.
(Encyclopaedia Britannica at

Sailor kissing girl in Times Square,
New York 1945

Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville
Kiss by the Hotel de Ville
A Parisian Street, 1950

The picture, Kiss by the Hotel de Ville, sold for 155,000 euros (£105,000) - more than 10 times what it was expected to fetch. Francoise Bornet and her then boyfriend agreed to pose for the seemingly spontaneous photo in 1950. The photo went on to become a poster icon around the world. An unidentified Swiss collector was the buyer, Paris auctioneers Artcurial Briest-Poulain-Le Fur were quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency. Frenchman Doisneau was working on a photo spread about Paris lovers for Life magazine when he spotted Mrs Bornet and boyfriend Jacques Carteaud near the school where they were studying theatre. Romantics like to believe the young lovers were captured in a spontaneous moment of bliss, but the pose was staged. In an interview in 1992, Doisneau said: "I would have never dared to photograph people like that. Lovers kissing in the street, those couples are rarely legitimate." The image stayed in the archives of the photo agency where Doisneau worked for more than 30 years before it was snapped up by a poster company.
(BBC News report on the auction of Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville at

Baisé Valsé, 1950

Bouquet of Jonquils, 1950

Be-bop en cave Saint-Germain des-pres
Paris, 1951

Doisneau became France's most popular photographer. His portrayals of loving couples against Parisian backdrops suggested a carefree, joyful character. One critic, writing in Le Monde, caricatured him as a "cheerful chappie" who sauntered around the capital snapping lovers or whatever else crossed his path. Nobody ever dared to speak so dismissively of that other great French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Now, 11 years after his death, his daughters, Annette and Francine, have sought to shatter that caricature with a 560-photograph book entitled Robert Doisneau: Paris. The man revealed is more like the lonely street children he portrayed.
For 60 years Doisneau chronicled Paris's post-war rebirth: the dreamers in the bistros, the balloon sellers in the Tuileries gardens, the children playing in the streets, the chic Parisiennes and the prostitutes. Later he caught the city's transformation, the coldness of the new blocks of flats sprouting in the suburbs.
(It started with the kiss, John Follain reports in The Sunday Times November 6, 2005)

L’Aéroplane de Papa

Marchande des Halles, 1953

Stampa in Sali d'argento 1956

For rest of his career Doisneau would rally between commercial work and documenting the streets and society of his native Paris. The unadorned "Frenchness" of his images continues to resonate the truest state of one of the world's most romanticized cities, from its petite bourgeoisie to its proverbial underbelly.
(Josefsberg Studio at
Robert Doisneau’s great gift was to bring about an awareness of the phenomenal to our ordinary rational sense through his photographer’s eye. In his intent to go beyond his “ordinary surroundings, (he) happened to glimpse some fragments of time where the everyday world appeared freed from its heaviness.” Those moments are embedded in these images, images that break the boundaries of banality and become signposts of our time.

Pablo Picasso

A humanist photographer, Robert Doisneau joined the Groupe des XV during the 1950’s. Alongside Willy Ronis and other artists, he tried to promote photography as art. He began to make a reputation for himself and won a number of prizes, including the Kodak Prize in 1947, the Niepce Prize in 1956 and, later, the “Grand Prix de la Photographie” in 1983 and the Balzac Prize in 1986. He continued to photograph anonymous passers-by and also a few personalities such as Picasso, Braque and Giacometti.
Alongside this work, to earn an income, Robert Doisneau completed a considerable number of industrial and advertising commissions. But it was his personal work that brought him huge international success during the last ten years of his life. His black and white photos were shown at a large number of exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Oxford Museum of Modern Art in 1992. This was to be his last: he died in Montrouge on 1st April 1994, appreciated and recognised by the public and the critics worldwide. Robert Doisneau’s photographs may be found in the collections of the world’s greatest museums. His first exhibition at the MOMA in New York took place in 1951. In 2007, over 400,000 people visited the Robert Doisneau Paris en liberté exhibition at the Paris Town Hall.
(Biography, Robert Doisneau, the budding photographer at


robin said...

Really..... unique collection of black&white photos which are showing the romantic and natural scenes of past times. I really enjoy these photographs and hope that i will get many more photos here...........!!!

rompedas said...

Thank you robin for the appreciation. I'll post more photos from good photographers.

Stiliano said...

very nice post!!