“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” -Robert Doisneau
Today would be Robert Doisneau’s 100th birthday. He died in 1994, but his street photographs will live forever. His most famous image, is Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Hotel de Ville). It captures the social essence of Paris in 1950.
Doisneau was a master of showing the humor, irony, and contradictions of contemporary Paris life. Before he began his photographic career, he studied art at the Ecole Estienne, receiving diplomas in engraving and lithography. When he was drafted into the armed services in World War II, he used these skills to forge passports and identification papers for the French Resistance.
Doisneau was a modest man, always preferring the simple life and common subjects of street photography. He worked at Vogue magazine, any photographer’s dream, but did not like photographing beautiful women in elaborate backgrounds. It was too pretentious for his sensibilities. Every chance he got, he returned to the streets. His integrity paid off in 1984 when he was appointed a Chevalier (Knight) of the Order of the Légion d’honneur.
One of my favorite photography books is Robert Doisneau Paris, published by Flammarion. It is a coffee table size hardback book filled with 393 pages of Doisneau’s most impressive work. I highly recommend buying a copy.