“Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville” by Robert Doisneau
You may not know the name Robert Doisneau, but it’s likely that you’ve seen his iconic photographs of Parisian life in the ’30s and ’40s. If “Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville” (see above) doesn’t make you want to hop a plane to Paris, I don’t know what will. But Doisneau’s oeuvre extends much further than the whimsical images we all know and love, and a current exhibit at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson allows us a window into the full breadth of his career, which spanned much of the 20th century.
At the core of Doisneau’s work is his acute sense of humanity and his unparalleled ability to convey it in a manner that is somehow both realistic and cinematic, revealing but respectful, probing but non-judgmental. These tensions set the tone for this exhibit, which includes photos taken from 1930-1966 in Paris and its surrounding suburbs. Some are playful—“The Jump Rope” portrays a girl in midair, encircled by a ray of light that gives the illusion of a rope—while others capture the somber atmosphere of post-war Europe.
Les Enfants de la Place Hebert by Robert Doisneau
To say Doisneau’s photos are timeless is a glaring understatement. To say he “captured” Parisian life also feels trite. It’s not that he captured Paris so much as created his own distinct version of it, and the question of whether or not his images are an “accurate” reflection of his time seems beside the point. Doisneau’s Paris is a living, breathing world unto itself, and it is a pleasure to return there again and again.
The exhibit runs until April 18, 2010. Entry is 6 Euros for adults or 3 Euros for those 26 and under. Free admission on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-8:30pm.
Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson. 2, impasse Lebouis, 14th arrondissement. Tel: 01 56 80 27 00. Open Tues-Sun from 1pm-6:30pm, Wed until 8:30pm, Sat. 11am-6:45pm. Closed Monday.