Robert_Doisneau_largeRobert Doisneau (April 14, 1912-April 1, 1994) was a French photographer, known as a pioneer of photojournalism. He mostly took pictures of people in the streets, highlighting social class, and paying particular attention to children at play. He is well known for his photo, Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall), which he took in 1950.

 

 

 

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Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville

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Doisneau was born in Gentilly, outside of Paris. His father died while in active duty in World War I, when Doisneau was just four years old. His mother died when he was seven, and he went on to live with an aunt.

He enrolled in L'Ecole Estienne in 1925 at the age of 13, and graduated with degrees in engraving and lithography. He also took classes in figure drawing and still life. He found work as a lettering artist at Atelier Ullmann, an creative graphics agency. Later on, he worked as an assistant to photographer Andre Vigneau. He was first published in a magazine in 1932 with a photographic story for Excelsior Magazine.

Doisneau worked at the Renault car factory for five years, beginning in 1934. He was finally fired for being consistently late. His years at the factory were very formative for his photography, leaving him with a desire to photograph people. Later in his life, he said that his time at the factory was the true beginning of his photographic career.

 

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In 1939, he was hired to take street photos by Charles Rado of the Rapho photographic agency. He traveled around France in search of photographic stories. But soon after, he was called to serve in the war. He served in the war until 1940, and for the following five years until the war's end, he used his draughting and engraving skills to forge passports and other documents as part of the French Resistance.

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After a brief stint with Alliance Photo Agency, he returned to Rapho, where he remained throughout his life. He was contracted to work as a fashion photographer at Vogue, but preferred photographing real life over posed beauty.

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His signature photo, Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville, was a point of controversy at the end of his life. Until 1992, it was a mystery who the couple was. One couple, Jean and Denise Lavergne, believed they were the subjects of the photo. According to French law, individuals own the rights to their own likeness, so when Doisneau did not deny that it was them in the photo, they took him to court for taking their photo without their knowledge. This resulted in him having to reveal that it was not, in fact, the Lavergnes in the photo but another couple, Françoise Delbart, 20, and Jacques Carteaud, 23. He had spotted them kissing on a busy Parisian street, and had stopped them to ask them to do it again. Doisneau won the court case against the Lavergnes, and is quoted as saying, "I would never have dared to photograph people like that. Lovers kissing in the street, those couples are rarely legitimate." The ordeal was very upsetting for Doisneau. His daughter later said that the photo ruined the last years of his life and that it, combined with the death of his wife, caused him to die of sadness.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 14 April 2014
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