Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville, 1950 © Atelier Robert Doisneau

Photographic master of everyday life

Robert Doisneau (1912–1994) was one of the most popular photographers of the 20th century who, like no one else, was able to express a special French charm. With his humorous and iconic photographs of life in the streets and cafés of Paris in the 1940s and 1950s, he became a pioneer of photo journalism. Doisneau is now being shown for the first time in Denmark in a major solo exhibition at Gl Holtegaard.

In his beautiful, sensitive photographs Robert Doisneau has a special eye for the moments that create the narratives of the everyday and the major and minor issues of life are displayed. His photographic work is a declaration of his love of Paris and its citizens – to the concierge, the butcher, the schoolchildren and the loving couples. With his ability to capture the uncommon in what is common, Doisneau leaves behind a picture of the city of cities that we still dream about today.

Doisneau’s photographic origins are to be found in the 1930s, when photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson spoke about ‘the decisive moment’, the situation takes a sudden turn and the shutter is released. Doisneau was eminent at sensing this crucial moment. But the spontaneous moments in Doisneau’s world are not always what they seem to be. The iconic snapshot of the pair kissing in front of the city hall is in fact a staged photograph. Doisneau mixed his observative gaze with the rigorously controlled, thereby developing the proud tradition of photo journalism. He polemically remarked: ‘I don’t photograph life as it is, but life as I would like it to be.’ His sense of staging is particularly evident in the famous portraits of the major avant-garde artists and writers of the time, such as Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir and Fernand Léger.

The exhibition at Gl Holtegaard presents two series by the photographer. The first series of 55 b/w photographs is from Paris in the 1940s and 1950s, and it includes a large number of the iconic works that made Doisneau world-famous. The series of 20 colour photographs from Palm Springs shows a more critical side of Doisneau in an acute, ironic depiction of the upper class in California in the year 1960.

Gl Holtegaard’s director Maria Gadegaard states: Robert Doisneau is one of the most popular names in the history of photography. At Gl Holtegaard we are pleased to be able to show him for the first time on Danish soil in a major solo presentation that is a fine continuation of the exhibitions of photographic masters already held here – from Ansel Adams to Man Ray.

Exhibition period 4 April – 6 July 2014 Opening hours Tue-Fri 11-16, Sat-Sun 11-17.

The exhibition is supported by Politiken-Fonden and the French Embassy in Denmark – Institut français du Danemark.

*Courtesy from the press department at glHoltegaard