My classroom is full of posters featuring black and white photographs by Robert Doisneau. He was born on April 14, 1912 and came to fame as a street photographer. His most famous image is Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (The Kiss at City Hall – by the way, don’t use “baiser” to mean kiss any more – it now has a very crude connotation).
Ironically, this photo celebrating the spontaneous joy of a young couple was far from spontaneous and caused Doisneau enormous grief. He had paid a model and a young actor to pose as the couple in love. The photographer spent the last years of his life defending himself from people who asserted that they were the couple and who wanted a slice of his earnings from the iconic image. Even the real model wanted more than the signed print and payment she had received at the time. The court shot her down, and she later sold her copy of the print for 155,000 Euros.
Doisneau was a humble, kind-hearted man; he refused to photograph women who had their heads shaved for having slept with German soldiers during the war. Naturally shy, he loved the old style of camera, where the photographer was covered by a drape. He was more comfortable photographing children and he left a valuable record of childhood in post-war France. He died in 1994, six months after his wife of 57 years.
Today’s expression, La beauté échappe aux modes passagères (lah bowtay Ashap owe mowde pass-a-sjer) is a Doisneau quotation that means “beauty escapes passing fads.” Sixty-two years later, the photo of the kissing couple is just as beautiful as it was in 1950.
Buy your own copy of this beautiful poster:
- Day 139: Robert Doisneau Poster (thejunkjam.wordpress.com)
- Doisneau is 100 (theonlinephotographer.typepad.com)
- Le plus beau est à venir (onequalitythefinest.com)
- Robert Doisneau: The man who captured Paris in the camera eye (piodalcin.wordpress.com)