"I prefer my hesitations, my false paths, my stammering, to a preconceived idea." - Robert Doisneau
A Bit of Biography...Robert Doisneau was a French photographer, born in 1912 and raised by his aunt, who was a pioneer of photojournalism as we know it today. He studied arts and crafts from a young age and began to experiment with photography when he was sixteen years old. He became the staff photographer while working for an advertising agency in the 1920s. It was just the beginning of his illustrious career.Soon thereafter, Doisneau saw his work published in magazines and he worked on well-known advertising and photojournalistic campaigns. When World War II began, he was recruited as both a soldier and photographer for the French Resistance.He was well-known for his unassuming, surreal, and lighthearted portrayal of life on the streets of Paris. Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall), one of his most renowned pieces and one classic to his style, shows a couple kissing on the streets of Paris in 1950. He commented on the piece: "The marvels of daily life are so exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street."Doisneau died in 1994. During his life he was awarded several prizes and recognitions; in 1984 he was appointed a Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour, and an Honorary Fellowship by The Royal Photographic Society in 1991. He continues to have his work published and exhibited around the world, cementing his place in art history.
A Selection of His Shots
Some personal thoughts about his legacy
I will voluntarily speak about two aspects here of the so famous and well known Photographer Legend.
HumourHave a look to these two shots.
Robert Doisneau has that very particular vision of amusing and fun situations. Observing a place and how it could provoke multiple situations. These shots are the perfect illustration of how important and fundamental the importance given to life is by a street photographer. Subjectively, depending on the very personal view of him.
Street photo evolution
"For a photographer, the first 70 years are a bit difficult, but after that things get better." - Robert DoisneauThe question I will humbly raise regarding the golden period of Doisneau's shots, is about how comfortable we are nowadays to shoot in street. Indeed, we don't currently have the same effects of a street shooting made by a photographer. What about the laws? The right to the picture? The forbidden places or events to shoot?We could speak about the "decisive moment" when form and content, vision and composition, merge into a transcendent whole. Instead, nowadays shooting in street is often continuously chasing after the eternal nowness of life itself in all its raw, unmediated energy. That is what most street photographers hope to capture when they walk out into the city. Mr. Doisneau remains a hugely influential figure, but it would be difficult to take pictures on the street now the way he did then. It would be even more difficult to take street photographs the way the more gentle practitioners of the form did. Both Britain's Roger Mayne, working in the 1950s and 1960s, and America's Helen Levitt, who famously began shooting in color in New York in the early 1960s, often photographed children at play in the streets and never thought twice about it. Neither did the children's parents or guardians. That is unfortunately not the case anymore. We live in an age of anxieties, both big and small, real and imagined.
Today, photography – and street photography in particular – is a contested sphere into which all of our collective anxieties converge: terrorism, pedophilia, intrusion, and surveillance. We insist on the right to privacy yet, simultaneously, snap anything and everyone we see and everything we do – in public and in private – on mobile phones and digital cameras.
In one way, then, we are all street photographers now, but we are also the most-photographed and filmed global population ever.
"To be a street photographer today, you need obsession, dedication and balls." Martin Parr