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Doisneau, Robert

Robert Doisneau (1912 –1994) was a French photographer. He and Henri Cartier-Bresson were pioneers of photojournalism and in the 1930s he used a Leica on the streets of Paris.

Doisneau was known for his modest, playful, and ironic images of amusing juxtapositions, mingling social classes, and eccentrics in contemporary Paris streets and cafes. Influenced by the work of André Kertész, Eugène Atget, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, in more than twenty books he presented a charming vision of human frailty and life as a series of quiet, incongruous moments. The marvels of daily life are so exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street, he said. Doisneau's work gives unusual prominence and dignity to children's street culture; returning again and again to the theme of children at play in the city, unfettered by parents. His work treats their play with seriousness and respect.

At thirteen, he enrolled at the École Estienne, a craft school from which he graduated in 1929 with diplomas in engraving and lithography. When he was 16 he took up amateur photography, but was reportedly so shy that he started by photographing cobble-stones before progressing to children and then adults. In 1931 he took a job as an assistant with the modernist photographer André Vigneau, and in 1932 he sold his first photographic story to Excelsior magazine. In 1934 he began working as an industrial advertising photographer for the Renault car factory at Boulogne-Billancourt.

Five years later, in 1939, he was fired and was forced to try freelance advertising, engraving, and postcard photography to earn his living. At that time the French postcard industry was the largest in Europe, postcards served as greetings cards as well as vacation souvenirs. In 1939 he was hired by Charles Rado of the Rapho photographic agency and travelled throughout France in search of picture stories. This is where he took his first professional street photographs.

Birth year
1912