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Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau

Photography in the Streets

Robert Doisneau (1912 —1994) was a French artist whose black and white photography of the streets of Paris charmed generations and democratized the subject of the camera. His images cut through class strata to depict all sorts of city dwellers with dignity and respect. In the 1930s he used a Leica to document everyday life in the French capital. He was a champion of humanist photography and with Henri Cartier-Bresson, a pioneer of photojournalism. He is renowned for his 1950 image Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall), a photograph of a couple kissing in the busy streets, which became the ultimate symbol of both young love and the romance of Paris.

Doisneau made his living in freelance advertising, engraving, and postcard photography, eventually publishing his work in publications like Life and Vogue. In his lifetime the French postcard industry was the largest in Europe, and postcards served as popular greeting cards as well as vacation souvenirs. Doisneau’s work often makes ironic or amusing juxtapositions, contrasting diverse characters in the Parisian streets and cafes. Much of his iconic Paris photography continues to live on as postcards or posters; the boy running with a baguette, ballerinas as vibrant as a Degas, or the musician shielding his cello from the rain with an umbrella. Doisneau’s images present a charming vision of human life as a series of strange yet delightful moments, infused with a childlike wonder and playfulness. He also is renown for celebrity portraits including those of Alberto Giacometti, Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso, and in the 1950s documented the booming lifestyles in Palm Springs, worlds away from his Paris.

TASCHEN presents the very best of Doisneau’s pictures, sourced from the extensive photo archive Atelier Robert Doisneau, in various publications. The books remind us of our humanity and that it’s never too late to fall in love with Paris.