Robert Doisneau – “A Champion of Humanist Photography”


I don’t photograph life as it is but
life as I would like it to be. Hello photography fans! Today I would
like to talk about photographer who was a part of this classic era of
photojournalism in Europe. Part of the same generation as for example Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa who I have talked about
previously. The author of one of the most well known romantic pictures in the
world. Let’s talk about Robert Doisneau. Robert Doisneau was born in France in 1912.
Unfortunately his parents died when Roberts was very young so he was raised
by his aunt. His first contact with art was already during his school years when
he picked up photography at the age of 16. He was said to be pretty shy and only
photographing cobblestones in the beginning. That’s actually pretty
interesting because he worked himself up all the way to be called a champion of
humanist photography. In 1930s he started to sell his first photographs and later
started working as advertising photographer for a Renault car Factory
and after that in Rapho photographic agency. After the war he returned to
freelance photography for magazines such as Life even though he was invited to
magnum by Henri Cartier-Bresson he remained in the Rapho agency for his
whole career. In 1950 Doisneau took one of his most famous pictures “The Kiss.”Tthe
Kiss is an iconic shot of couple kissing in the middle of a crowd in Paris. When
we look at the composition there is the kissing pair in the middle of movement
which kind of represents the Paris in 1950s and this romantic idea a lot of
people had about Paris. What’s interesting about this picture is
not only how iconic it is but also even though Robert Doisneau was a street
photographer this picture was actually staged. He was actually commissioned by
Life magazine to photograph kissing people in Paris and he later – when he was asked why it was staged he said – I would have never dared tophotograph
people like that. Lovers kissing in the street, those couples are rarely
legitimate. To be honest since it was an assignment I don’t really mind it was
staged and who would be a better person to create a street scene like this than
a street photographer. Just like Cartier Bresson his work is centered about
geometry. I love this picture where the diagonal line is splitting the picture
in half and the ballerina is also slightly off-center. This is also
something you don’t see every day since this was shot from above making the use
of her round shape for the composition. We can also find other photography
techniques such as leading lines or figure to ground and rhythm and usually
those techniques are combined together. The humor in his photography is
interesting because it’s not only shot for the sake of the joke but we can also
see a great use of photographic techniques. The humor was also applied when
photographing in celebrities. As for example in this portrait of Pablo
Picasso where he used bread to kind of mimic the fingers which is funny when
you see Picasso’s abstract paintings. Another chapter is his children
photography and again we can see a use of humor, rhythm, geometry and other
photography techniques. One thing that’s interesting about his street photography
is he never wanted to ridicule his subjects.
Unlike Vivian Mayer who kind of liked photographing people in let’s say
uncomfortable situations. He for example refused to photograph women punished for
sleeping with Germans whose heads had been shaved. If you like his work I would recommend
to check out his photography books. There are several of them. I will leave the
links in the description as always. If you like this video feel free to give it
a like. Let me know what is your favorite image of Robert Doisneau and also
subscribe for more content like this. Thank you for watching and I will see
you next time!

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