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September 7, 2019

An Artist Idealizing His Model at the Pont des Arts, Paris, 1953

“Nowadays people’s visual imagination is so much more sophisticated, so much more developed, particularly in young people, that now you can make an image which just slightly suggests something, they can make of it what they will.” – Robert Doisneau

These hilarious photographs of a painter at the Pont des Arts were taken by the great French photographer Robert Doisneau in 1953. During his long career, his poetic approach to street photography recorded French everyday life in often playful and surreal images. Always charmed by his subjects, he enjoyed finding amusing juxtapositions or oddities of human nature.

Doisneau initially studied engraving and lithography at the École Estienne in Paris to learn the crafts involved in the book trade, but claimed that the streets of the working class neighborhood of Gentilly provided his most important schooling. When he was sixteen he took up amateur photography but was reportedly so shy that he started photographing cobble-stones before progressing to children and then adults.

“People like my photos because they see in them what they would see if they stopped rushing about and took the time to enjoy the city,” Robert Doisneau used to say. It is very true, however, perhaps surprisingly, his most famous picture was staged.


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