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Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) was a major 20th-century French photographer, whose captivating street portraits once ruled the pages of Vogue. A retrospective glance at the best photographs he produced during this period in the new book ‘Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years’, documenting his work with an eclectic mix of musicians, models and movie stars, reveals a stunning Paris rising up to embrace post-war glory.
A glimpse of Parisian life through Doisneau’s classic black-and-white lens is one of glamour and gorgeous celebration, capturing the joie-de-vivre of post-war France. Whether it’s the spell-binding high-society balls where some of his fondest memories and friendships were formed, working with celebrities from Cocteau to Colette, or the humanist portraits of humble craftsmen going quietly about their daily business, lifestyle in Paris during this period simply looks delightful.
As a pioneer of photojournalism and a member of the legendary Parisian Group XV, established in 1946 to promote the art of photography, Doisneau ultimately preferred to portray authentic everyday life on the streets of Paris rather than stay in the studio. When Paris was officially liberated in 1944, Doisneau was one of the only photographers still there, at which point he captured many famous photographs of euphoric Parisians. Sometimes dubbed a ‘photo-poet’, he enjoyed photographing crowds of French children playing in the dust and once said: “I don’t photograph life as it is, but life as I would like it to be.”
It’s quite likely you’ve swooned at the sight of one of his most iconic street photographs without even realising: “Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville)”. This adorable picture of a kissing couple has graced thousands of postcards and posters, and enticed millions of eager tourists by representing the romantic dreams of a nation. However, this famous snap only represents one strand of his legendary work.
A new lavishly illustrated volume ‘Robert Doisneau: The Vogue Years’ will be published on September 28, delving much deeper into his legacy than the iconic kissing photograph. It showcases a series of stunning photographs he produced for Vogue Paris between 1948 and 1952, unveiling the little-known images of haute couture featured models like Brigitte Bardot and Bettina.
The collection is rendered all the more intimate and insightful through the personal homage offered by the illustrious Vogue editor in chief – both colleague, and dear friend – Edmonde Charles-Roux.