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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Robert Doisneau

Dates:  1912, 14 April - 1994, 1 April
Born:  France, Val-de-Marne, Gentilly
Active:  France
 
  
French photographer. One of the greatest street photographers.

Preparing biographies


Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
Doisneau was a Parisian street photographer whose work from the 1930s to the 1980s can be seen as a humanistic visual social history of the city and its people. Doisneau called himself a "fisher" of pictures, a picture hunter who captured his observations of Parisian culture by immersing himself into the stream of life. Problems arose when Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville, 1950, a.k.a. The Kiss, was published in LIFE as an "unposed" icon of street photography and young love and it turned out to be reconstructions of scenes he had witnessed but had not been able to record. By accepting Doisneau’s "unposed" picture his audience agreed to believe they were witnessing a scene from "real" life. Instead they were taken in by a docudrama. Doisneau’s subjective-documentary approach breached the collective trust between the photographer and the audience, eroding public belief in the photograph’s authenticity. It indicates seeing is not believing and that the age of the photograph being accepted as a non-fictional transcription of reality had to be rethought and seen instead as constructed fiction. 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Yvette Troispoux
Robert Doisneau and Gisele Freund 
1980
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

Visual indexes

 
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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.229 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.152-153 
  
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Robert Doisneau.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.126-127 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.245 
  
• Koetzle, Hans-Michael 2002 Photo Icons: The Story Behind the Pictures - Volume 2 (Koln: Taschen) [This book discusses one photograph "The Kiss in Front of City Hall (1950)" by Robert Doisneau in considerable detail. An excellent source for a detailed analysis.] 
  
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.214, Plate 80 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Robert Doisneau this is a useful starting point.] 
  
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.172 [Analyzes a single photograph by Robert Doisneau.] 
  

Collections

Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 
  

 
In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Robert Doisneau was represented in 44 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
  
 

Quotations

The wit and wisdom.

 
"A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there —- even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity."
"If I knew how to take a good photograph, I‘d do it every time."
 
  
 
  
 
  
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