Book review: Robert Doisneau

Parisian photographer Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) is best known for documenting everyday life in twentieth-century France, from factory workers to romantic street scenes. This beautifully produced new book, compiled by the artist’s long-time friend Jean Claude Gautrand, showcases the vast array of work produced by Doisneau over his 60-year career.

The book begins with a preface by Doisneau’s daughters, discussing their father’s oeuvre and friendship with Gautrand. It goes on to provide a brief biographical sketch, highlighting how Doisneau’s early days in the “grim soil” of Gentilly shaped his famously empathetic eye. The images are then arranged chronologically, with brief introductions to each section by Gautrand. Carefully chosen quotations from Doisneau allow the artist to speak about his own work, and provide context for the photographs.

There are iconic images here – Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (The Kiss), for example – but some of Doisneau’s most touching work can be found in his photographs of the underground printers and bookbinders who continued to work during the Occupation of the 1940s. A truly comprehensive retrospective, this book shows both the historical and artistic importance of Doisneau’s photography.

(You can see some of Doisneau’s work in the portfolio section here. I especially like ‘artisans’ and ‘banlieue décors’)

 

Originally written for Aesthetica.

 

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