The Street Life of Paris Through the Spectacular Photography of Robert Doisneau, 1930s-1950s

Robert Doisneau was a famous French photographer renowned for his poetic approach to street photography. A lover of juxtapositions and oddities of human nature, he was always charmed by his subjects. In his youth, Doisneau attended the École Estienne in Paris, learning the book trade crafts, but he always claimed that his most important education was gained on the streets of Gentilly.

Doisneau studied engraving and lithography at the École Estienne in. He took up amateur photography in his twenties, but he was so shy that he initially took pictures of cobblestones before moving on to children and adults. After graduating in 1929, he began photographing professionally, working initially for advertising photographer André Vigneau, who introduced him to artists and writers with avant-garde ideas. In 1930, he began photographing details of objects, and in 1932, he sold his first photo story to the Excelsior newspaper. He worked as an industrial and advertising photographer for Renault. Immediately after he was fired in 1939, he earned a living doing advertising and postcard photography. The following year he joined the Rapho photo agency, where he worked until World War II. While a soldier and photographer for the Resistance, Doisneau also forged documents for the Resistance. He documented both the occupation and the liberation of Paris. From 1948 to 1952, he worked as a fashion photographer for French Vogue, including fashion photography.

He briefly joined the Alliance photo agency before returning to Rapho in 1946. He published over two dozen photographs, often of Paris and Parisians, after his first, La Banlieue de Paris (1949). Doisneau joined Group XV, a group of photographers dedicated to improving both the technical and artistic aspects of photography, in the 1950s. The street became his arena from then on. In many ways, Doisneau was a shy and unassuming man, much like his photography. Photographing a wide range of events and people, he often juxtaposed conformist and maverick elements in images marked by an exquisite sense of humor, anti-establishment values, and, above all, by his deeply felt humanism.

Doisneau won the Kodak Prize in 1947. In 1956, he was awarded the Prix Niepce and a consultant to Expo ’67, Canada. Doisneau died in Broussais, France, on April 1, 1994. Here are some fascinating photos of Paris from the 1930s to 1950s by Robert Doisneau.

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Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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