Doisneau Exhibit at the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation
Robert Doisneau (1912 - 1994) was an expert in street photography, walking or biking through Paris with his camera, catching fleeting moments of poetic and romantic Parisian scenes that made him famous. His work is however much more complex than his famous idyllic images. For its first exhibit of the year, the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation is showcasing about 100 of Doisneau's photographs. Even if the famous 'Baiser de l'hôtel de ville' is among them, most of the other work presented is rather unknown.
In this selection of images, entitled 'Du métier à l'oeuvre', Doisneau catches the non-glamourous Paris, the forgotten suburbs and its people living a difficult life, full of loneliness, sorrow and misery. It is not surprising then to see sad looking streets, dull interiors and grey factories. However, nothing is completely bleak. Doisneau knows to find an usual element, something out of place to bring back some emotion, like the small fresh flower bouquet between two people obviously at the end of their rope (Le mimosa du comptoir - 1952), a young girl looking outside the window of a sad looking café (Le nez sur le carreau - 1953), or a woman playing the accordion in a bistro for butchers working in the nearby market (Les bouchers mélomanes - 1953). He finds and shows us the contrasts of decrepitude against the happy games of young children, or the darkness of a slum against the pretty face of a teenage girl. They are always presented with respect and dignity.
Even if those particular scenes have disappeared and the children Doisneau photographed are now all grown up, his images gave me the sense that time was suspended. I was caught between a feeling of nostalgia for times long gone and a sense that nothing has really changed. After all, kids will always know how to play and have fun with the little nothings they can find, and a pretty flower will always find a way to bloom on a wasteland.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson, 2 impasse Lebouis, 75004 Paris. Métro Gaité line 13, métro Edgar Quinet line 6.
Closed Monday, free Wednesday night after 6:30.
About the Author
Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.