The shot of the young couple kissing, indifferent to the crowd of passers-by and the traffic of the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Paris, is one of the well-known photographs in the world. The author is Robert Doisneau, the great master of photography to whom the exhibition, curated by Gabriel Bauret and scheduled from 28 May to 4 September 2022 at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome, is dedicated.
Along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau is considered one of the founding fathers of French Humanist Photography and Street Photojournalism. With his camera lens he captures the daily life of men and women who populate Paris and its banlieue, with all the emotions of gestures and situations in which they are engaged.
Over 130 black and white silver salt prints from the collection of the Atelier Robert Doisneau in Montrouge will be exhibited. It is in this atelier that the photographer printed and archived his photographs for over fifty years, and it was there where he died in 1994, leaving a legacy of almost 450,000 negatives.
The exhibition combines a chronological axis with a thematic approach, divided into 11 sections:
Concierges (1945-1953): a series of photographs dedicated to Parisian concierges beacause-as Doisneau states-“The real Paris cannot be conceived without its concierges”. This is how memorable portraits are born, such as Concierge aux lunettes, Les Concierges de la rue du Dragon and Madame Augustin;
Enfances (1934-1956): the subjects photographed by Doisneau are often complicit in his intentions; in particular the children who populate and animate the suburban streets. The photographer feels at ease in their company, as evidenced by the large number of shots that see them as protagonists since his mid-thirties photographs;
Occupation et Libération (1940-1944): When Robert Doisneau finally achieves the status of an independent photographer, his momentum is shattered by war and the Occupation.
Daily life and winters are hard, but the Liberation will offer him the opportunity to restore the effervescence that reigned in Paris at that moment, as in the shot entitled Camouflage, [Libération de Paris]; L'Après-Guerre (1945-1953): the post-war rebirth is portrayed in the uncertain step of a child in Les Premiers Pas or in the girls dressed up for Dimanche matin or in the smiles on the faces of Les Habitants de la rue du Transvaal;
Le Monde du travail (1935-1950): Doisneau worked for five years in the advertising department of the Renault workshops which, he says, allowed him to "get to know the world of those who wake up early". On display, some of the shots that Doisneau took of the workers of the Parisian suburbs;
Le Théâtre de la rue: in the street school, far richer and more captivating than any other school, Doisneau finds a beauty, a disorder and a splendor that seduce him. From the vegetable peddler portrayed in Les Oignons, to the Pêcheur à la mouche sèche or even to the Père de famille, no one escapes the watchful eye of Doisneau;
Scènes d’intérieur (1943-1970): interior scenes in which, quoting Jean-Claude Lemagny, "the ridiculous side of situations is accepted first and foremost by its victims. We are not interested in knowing if the models are aware that they are funny or moving”, as happens in Créatures de rêve;
Mode et Mondanités (1950-1952): in 1950 Robert Doisneau met Edmonde Charles-Roux, journalist of “Vogue” and became a chronicler of Parisian life and the artistic life of the time. This section therefore collects some photographs of Doisneau as a witness of the great dances and sumptuous weddings of the post-war period;
Portraits(1942-1961): perhaps a lesser known part of Doisneau's work consists of the numerous portraits, often made on commission. In front of his lens, painters, draftsmen, writers, actors, filmmakers, actors, scientists such as Picasso, Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Jeanc Cocteau and many others with whom the photographer establishes sincere friendships that will influence the destiny of his photographs;
Une certaine idée du bonheur (1945-1961): “What I was trying to show was” - recalls Doisneau - “a world where I would feel good, where people would be kind, where I would find the tenderness I hoped to receive. My photographs were like proof that this world can exist". Whether in an improvised dance in the street like in La Dernière Valse du 14 juillet or in wedding portraits or even in the iconic Le Baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville;
Bistrots (1948-1957): dragged by Robert Giraud, Doisneau discovers the atmosphere of the Parisian bistros and its banlieu; the road thus gives way to methodical exploration of the most unexpected universes where Doisneau will end up feeling at ease and memorable portraits, such as the one of Mademoiselle Anita, will born.
Particular attention for this exhibition was dedicated to accessibility: for the visually impaired and blind public, a dedicated itinerary is designed, in collaboration with the Museo Tattile Statale Omero, featuring relief drawings and related audio descriptions . In addition to these supports, a calendar of free tactile visits will be available, guided by specialized operators.
Free guided tours of the exhibition will also be available for the deaf public: they will be accompanied by an interpreter in L.I.S. made available by the "Segni d’Integrazione" cooperative, a service offered by the Department of Social and Health Policies - Human Services Department of Roma Capitale.
Therefore, whether it is photographs made on commission or the result of his free wandering around Paris, we see a style imbued with a particular mindset emerging, which also transpires in his writings and in the captions of the photographs; a style that mixes charm and fantasy, but also a freedom of expression not far from Surrealism. The multitude of characters and stories that populate Doisneau's work translates into an artistic attitude and a philosophy of life. If the style is the man, as Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon says, in the same way Doisneau's photography identifies itself with some of his subjects to express a sort of restlessness or melancholy.
Doisneau's work is in fact an expression of an empathic gaze, which even becomes tenderly involved when he photographs lovers and children. “I like - explains Doisneau - people for their weaknesses and defects. I get along well with ordinary people. We talk. We start talking about time and gradually we get to the important things. When I photograph them it is not as if I were there examining them with a magnifying glass, like a cold and scientific observer. It's a very fraternal thing, and it's wonderful to shed light on those people who are never in the spotlight." “The photographer must be like blotting paper, he must let himself be penetrated by the poetic moment. His technique should be like an animal function, and must act automatically."
Within the exhibition, clips from Clémentine Deroudille's film Robert Doisneau. Le Révolté du merveilleux and an interview with the curator Gabriel Bauret.
The exhibition, curated by Gabriel Bauret, is promoted and produced by Roma Culture, Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo and Silvana Editoriale. Organizational support by Zètema Progetto Cultura. Catalogue Silvana Editoriale. Radio partner Dimensione Suono Soft.