Robert Doisneau | 1912 – 1994

Posted: January 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Film, Painting, Photography, Quotes

La poule en laisse © Robert Doisneau

La poule en laisse © Robert Doisneau

Danse © Robert Doisneau

Danse © Robert Doisneau

When I was photographing fashion for Vogue, against a white background, I was only acting a part. Watching a fashion show never gave me any particular emotion, never made me think : “I must absolutely photograph that woman, in that dress”. Besides, models weren’t as friendly as they are now, they always seemed to look down on the little man at the other side of the camera, who was only trying to get his photo.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Le ruban de la mariée, 1951 © Robert Doisneau

Le ruban de la mariée, 1951 © Robert Doisneau

Les animaux superieurs, 1954 © Robert Doisneau

Les animaux superieurs, 1954 © Robert Doisneau

I’ve made every possible mistake. Because I don’t like to obey orders and I always question what I’m told. So I have to try out everything for myself, and that has lead me into many dead ends.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Les frères, rue du Docteur Lecène, Paris 1934 © Robert Doisneau

Les frères, rue du Docteur Lecène, Paris 1934 © Robert Doisneau

Yes, the expectation of a miracle. It’s very childish, but at the same time it’s almost like an act of faith. We find a backdrop and wait for the miracle. I remember a backdrop that never worked for me, possibly because I didn’t wait long enough, or didn’t return to it often enough. In the foreground you can see the steps of Saint Paul’s church, the background is a perfect faubourg, as you imagine them from literature or movies. I frame it in my viewfinder, from rue de Turenne to a shop called Le Gant d’Or, and wait there for an hour, sometimes two, thinking, “my God, something is bound to happen”. I imagine events I would like to photograph, one wilder than the other. But nothing happens, nothing. Or if it does – bang – it’s so different from what I expected that I miss it. The miracle did take place, but I wasted it, because I didn’t pay the right kind of attention. When you are tired, you become unable to react, your emotion is no longer available.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Bois Bouloigne ©  Robert Doisneau

Bois Bouloigne © Robert Doisneau

Plenty. I couldn’t count all my hours of mad hope, while expecting the miracle to happen. Hardly a week goes by without at least one day of photography. But sometimes I have the feeling that I’m hounded by a curse. It took me five years to get sacked by Renault – though I had done all I could to that purpose – and three months later war was declared and my freedom was lost again. Now, that I don’t have to waste my time with advertising photos, or with complying to the demands of magazines, my wife’s illness has fallen on me. For the last ten years, this has detained me from using my time as I wanted. It’s like a fatality. Still, I believe that constraint, and the feeling of exasperation that comes with it, can also become a stimulus to create.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Concours du plus beau tatouage 1950 © Robert Doisneau

Concours du plus beau tatouage 1950 © Robert Doisneau

The advantage we have, compared to painters and writers, is that we never lose contact with the rough side of life. It is a lesson in humility and it keeps us from some pitfalls. But above all it nourishes us. Other people’s vitality nourishes us, without their knowledge. It has done me good to work on this project in Saint-Denis, to find myself in the streets again, face to face with people. Though I must say that I found them less friendly than twenty years ago, possibly because of today’s photographers, who hold their cameras like weapons – so of course the rabbit on the other side doesn’t feel too good. I wouldn’t dare shoot as they do, I don’t have William Klein’s nerve. Sometimes the camera pulls me along, but once I’ve got my photo I wonder, “How am I going to cope with this now, how can I explain it to these people?”

- Robert Doisneau

 

Mademoiselle Anita 1951 © Robert Doisneau

Mademoiselle Anita 1951 © Robert Doisneau

Paris © Robert Doisneau

Paris © Robert Doisneau

[Using a Rollei] You ended up bowing before the subject, as if in prayer. Whereas with a 35mm camera, you put him straight in your line of fire – that is in your line of sight, so as to shoot right into his face. And if you aren’t quick enough, this may annoy him and he will agress you. I understand it now, as more and more often people tend to photograph me, it’s like the attractiveness of old ruins, you become picturesque without wanting to. So I realise what it feels to have such a machine pointed at you : if you stick your finger up your nose – click – your fellow photographer won’t miss it.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Trépidante Wanda 1953 © Robert Doisneau

Trépidante Wanda 1953 © Robert Doisneau

Sunday morning in Arcueil 1945 © Robert Doisneau

Sunday morning in Arcueil 1945 © Robert Doisneau

A memory from my youth comes back to me. You go into the woods on a bike, with a girl. There is the smell of heather, you can hear the wind in the fir trees, you don’t dare tell her about your love, but you feel happy, as if you were floating above the ground. Then you look at the clouds beyond the trees and they are fleeting. And you know that within an hour you’ll have to go home, that tomorrow will be a working day. You wish you could stop that moment for ever, but you can’t, it is bound to end. So you take a photo, as if to challenge time. Maybe the girl will move to another town and you will never see her again, or you will see her changed, tired, humiliated by her everyday life, working as a salesgirl in some shop, with a boss always shouting at her. To me, this desire to preserve the moment seems justified, in spite of that German priest mentioned by Gisèle Freund, who pretends that the photographic image is a sacrilege.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Paris © Robert Doisneau

Paris © Robert Doisneau

I had a few problems with the law. It appears that people have rights about their own image, and this often prevents me from catching their spontaneity. So I must stop them and say, “I noticed you while passing by, would you mind kissing again?” That’s what happened with the “Hôtel de Ville lovers”, they re-enacted their kiss. Those with the grocer were a couple I hired.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Le Baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville 1950 © Robert Doisneau

Le Baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville 1950 © Robert Doisneau

The “Hôtel de Ville lovers” were part of a series, on which I had already worked for a week and which I had to complete with two or three photos of that kind. But the fact that they were set up never bothered me. After all, nothing is more subjective than l’objectif (the French word for “lens”), we never show things as they “really”are. The world I was trying to present was one where I would feel good, where people would be friendly, where I could find the tenderness I longed for. My photos were like a proof that such a world could exist.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Créatures de Rêves, 1952 © Robert Doisneau

Créatures de Rêves, 1952 © Robert Doisneau

L'enfant Papillon 1945 © Robert Doisneau

L'enfant Papillon 1945 © Robert Doisneau

Les écoliers de la rue Damesme, Paris 1956 © Robert Doisneau

Les écoliers de la rue Damesme, Paris 1956 © Robert Doisneau

My photographs show the world as I would like it to be.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Montbéliard © Robert Doisneau

Montbéliard © Robert Doisneau

Picasso et Françoise Gilot, 1952 © Robert Doisneau

Picasso et Françoise Gilot, 1952 © Robert Doisneau

Les Enfants de la Place Herbert, 1957 © Robert Doisneau

Les Enfants de la Place Herbert, 1957 © Robert Doisneau

We must always remember that a picture is also made up of the person who looks at it. This is very, very important. Maybe this is the reason behind those pictures that haunt me and that haunt many people as well. It is about that walk that one takes with the picture when experiencing it. I think that this is what counts. One must let the viewer extricate himself, free himself for the journey. You offer the seed and then the viewer grows it inside himself. For a long time I thought that I had to give the entire story to my audience. I was wrong.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Georges Braque a Varengeville Normandy, 1953 © Robert Doisneau

Georges Braque a Varengeville Normandy, 1953 © Robert Doisneau

La dent, Paris 1956 © Robert Doisneau

La dent, Paris 1956 © Robert Doisneau

Le cadran scolaire, Paris 1956 © Robert Doisneau

Le cadran scolaire, Paris 1956 © Robert Doisneau

I’m not sure that total freedom is such a good thing. When you have to rely on yourself for living, you accept all kinds of assignments. But you cannot help glancing to the right or to the left, as if playing some game with the working hours that you owe your employer – and in the end the photos worth preserving are the ones you stole from his time.

- Robert Doisneau

 

La voiture fondue,1944 © Robert Doisneau

La voiture fondue,1944 © Robert Doisneau

Georges Braque a Varangeville, 1953 © Robert Doisneau

Georges Braque a Varangeville, 1953 © Robert Doisneau

La poterne des peupliers,1932 © Robert Doisneau

La poterne des peupliers,1932 © Robert Doisneau

The world I was trying to present was one where I would feel good, where people would be friendly, where I could find the tenderness I longed for. My photos were like a proof that such a world could exist.

- Robert Doisneau

 

Fernand Leger dans ses oeuvres © Robert Doisneau

Fernand Leger dans ses oeuvres © Robert Doisneau


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