Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau was a champion of humanist photography and a pioneer of photojournalism. His iconic black and white images of life in Paris some of the most recognisable to this day. He was awarded several prizes for photography during his lifetime and his work continues to be published and exhibited internationally.


Robert Doisneau was born in 1912 in Paris, France. Known as the pioneer of French photojournalism, he would become most recognised for his playful and surrealist renderings of everyday French life. 


Raised by his aunt, Doisneau studied engraving and lithography at the Estienne School in Paris before experimenting with photography aged 16. He then became a camera assistant at Andre Vigneau’s studio in 1929, before briefly working for Renault as an advertising photographer until 1939. After being fired from the automobile company, Doisneau was recruited that same year for the photography agency Rapho, which represented artists like André Kertész and Edouard Boubat. That is where he would ultimately develop his penchant for shooting on the streets and catching his subjects unaware. 


Doisneau was enrolled as a soldier and photographer for the French Resistance at the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war, he would reprise his personal projects, taking on fashion photography for example and working for French Vogue from 1948 to 1952. 


Although Doisneau did photograph celebrities like Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso, he is predominantly known for his unassuming and light-hearted, portrayal of life on Paris’s streets. One of his most well known works, classic to his style, is Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall), showing a kissing couple embracing on the streets of Paris in 1950. He commented, “The marvels of daily life are so exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”


Doisneau would pass away in 1994. During his life he was awarded several prizes and recognitions; two years after the Second World War he was awarded the Prix Kodak, in 1984 he was appointed Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour, and he was also granted an Honorary Fellowship by The Royal Photographic Society in 1991. In 1997, a photogallery in his name was opened in Gentilly, France, to honour his lifetime work. Nowadays, Doisneau continues to have his work published and exhibited around the world, cementing his place in the history of photography.