Les bals du 14 Juillet, Paris
1950 © Atelier Robert Doisneau
Vintage silver gelatin print
25.5 x 20.5cm
Robert Doisneau was the ultimate storyteller. His pictures, well versed in the laws and lines of photographic communication, became synonymous with a way of life that we all now accept as ‘French’. Who cannot recall the image of the two lovers walking past the Hôtel de Ville, in a passionate embrace, or the iconic image of Picasso sitting at his breakfast table, his hands miraculously metamorphosed into bread rolls!
Doisneau was passionate about his home city; the people of the Paris streets, the atypical brasseries... In fact as Bruce Bernard once said ‘all human life’ or rather ‘all Parisian life’. He was a regular figure at all the gatherings and activities in his home city, whether it was a crowd of French children tearing up the street tarmac to make barricades against the inevitable German invasion, or a simple wedding with the bride and groom wandering into the brasserie to hold their reception. Who could forget his series ‘regard-oblique’, a collection of amusing images of Parisians looking in astonishment at a painting of a bare lady in the window of the Romi Art Gallery: possibly the original candid camera. The series was published in its entirety in the Picture Post and is now folklore in candid photography.
Doisneau became increasingly interested with the possibilities of photography as more than a narrative tool, but also bending the visual impact of the photograph by using techniques unaided by computer simply by using his small darkroom to manipulate the images, such as multiple exposures onto the paper.
Robert Doisneau’s last major exhibition in the UK was at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, which he attended shortly before his death in 1994. This retrospective put him firmly where he belonged: as a master of narrative and street photography, rightly placing him on the same level as Willy Ronis, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Boubat.