La beauté échappe aux modes passagères

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).

Google*Robert DOISNEAU

Google*Robert DOISNEAU (Photo credit: COG LOG LAB.)

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.

Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau (Photo credit: M:)

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.

English: French photographer Robert Doisneau p...

English: French photographer Robert Doisneau photographed by Bracha L. Ettinger in his studio in Montrouge, 1992 All uses of this picture must attribute it to Bracha L. Ettinger, under the CC-BY-SA 2.5 License (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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:

The Kiss at City Hall


Robert Doisneau: 1912 – 1994

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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5 Responses to La beauté échappe aux modes passagères

  1. Pingback: Joindre le geste à la parole | One quality, the finest.

  2. Pingback: Le plus beau est à venir | One quality, the finest.

  3. homemadehay says:

    Love your blog. My French is rusty, but it’s super helpful as I try to get back in the swing of regularly speaking it so I can teach my son. Thus my question… If we shouldn’t use “baiser” anymore, what should we use?

  4. Pingback: Paris libéré, Paris photographié, Paris exposé | One quality, the finest.

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