Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau Photo

A French photographer, Robert Doisneau was alive since 1912 until 1994. Doisneau’s early life was very difficult because his father died while serving in World War I, when he was four and at the age of seven, his mother died as well. He was raised by an unloving and uncaring aunt. When he was thirteen, he joined an art and craft school, École Estienne, and in 1929 he graduated with diplomas in lithography and engraving. He also took classes of still life and figure drawing. At the age of sixteen, he was an amateur photographer who gradually fought his shyness and progressed and began taking photographs of children and then adults. Later, in 1930s Doisneau started working at Atelier Ullmann, a creative graphics studio specializing in pharmaceutical industry. Soon, Doisneau became a staff photographer from a camera helper.

Doisneau was famous for his ironic, playful and modest images of socialization among social classes, eccentrics in streets and cafes of modern Paris, and entertaining juxtapositions. In more than about twenty books, his presentation of human life and frailty has been an influence from the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugène Atget and André Kertész. While photographing children, he treated his subjects and their play with respect and seriousness. This is why there are some schools named after Robert Doisneau.

In 1931, he started working for André Vigneaum (modernist photographer), as his assistant. A year later Excelsior (magazine) bought Doisneau’s photographic story. Then in 1934 he began working for a car company, Renault as a commercial photographer. While working for this company, he grew interest in people and photography. However, due to his unpunctuality, he was fired and was forced to work as a freelancer to earn a living.

In 1939, Charles Rado hired Doisneau and he was required to travel around France seeking photographic stories. This is how he shot his first street photographs, professionally. Here he worked until World War II. Due to the war, the French army drafted him as a photographer and a soldier. In 1945, he used his craftsmanship and forged identity papers and passports for French Resistance.

After the conflict, he returned to working as a freelance photographer and traded his images to Life magazine and other publications.  He joined Alliance Photo Agency for a brief span of time and then rejoined the Rapho agency that belonged to Rado, in 1946. He worked their all his life despite receiving a job invitation from Magnum Photos.

His photography has never ridiculed any of his subjects and so he didn’t want to photograph those women who had their heads shaved as a penalty for sleeping with German men. Moreover, when in 1948, he was contracted to work for Vogue as a fashion photographer, he didn’t enjoy taking pictures of beautiful women. He liked street photography and whenever he got a chance, he fulfilled this preference.

By the 1970s, change was spreading in Europe and editors were seeking for reportage that could depict the modern sense of social era. Old- style of photography was being overtaken by new styles. Magazines were being disposed and television became the new hero. Despite all these media changes that were happening, Doisneau continued working. He did commercial photography, celebrity portraits of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Alberto Giacometti and Ferman Léger. He also produced books for children.

He received awards as well for his extraordinary work, such as the Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1983), the Niépce Prize (1956), the Kodak Prize (1947) and the Balzac Prize (1986). He received many other awards and honorary fellowship.

Robert Doisneau Photos

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