Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville

doisneau_kiss

Although not as iconic as Alfred Eisenstaedt’s the sailor kiss on the V-E Day, Robert Doisneau’s “The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville,” taken on a Parisian street in 1950, is considered one of the most romanticand popular photos ever taken. Although Doisneau worked in Paris as a street photographer and stole many an intimate moment of Parisian couples, this classic shot was staged. However, this fact didn’t prevent the picture from gracing the walls of many freshman dorm rooms since its first production in 1986. More than 500,000 posters and 400,000 postcards have been reprinted from the original.

The picture was taken for a photo spread about Paris lovers for Life magazine, but the image stayed in the archives of Doisneau’s photo agency (Ralpho, which benefited greatly from this single picture) for more than 30 years before it was commercialized by a poster company. 

The picture’s success sparked controversies when several couples claimed that they were the subjects and sued Doisneau. In 1993, a former actress, Françoise Bornet sued Doisneau for $18,000 and a share of the royalty in the image, by claiming she was the women in the picture. The case was dismissed, but Doisneau admitted that he, Bornet and her boyfriend Jacques Carteaud staged the photo. The couple who would later separate were the students studying theater when Doisneau approached them.  Doisneau reflected, “I would have never dared to photograph people like that. Lovers kissing in the street, those couples are rarely legitimate.”

 

39 thoughts on “Le Baiser de l’Hotel de Ville

  1. My husband & I were out thrifting today & we came across this wonderful poster 24″x32″ nicely framed in glass,we both loved it & thought we would google? How Lucky we are to learn about this great photographer & his work~!

  2. This is a great photo that accompanied me through my photography exploration days. I think a bit of magic got lost when Doisneau revealed it was staged. It took away the fantasy effect and wanderings , wondering about the couple in the pic. Iconic, yes all the way.

  3. […] It seemed as if  every living room or cafe featured this photograph. The black and white print by Doisneau (later I learned out he was one of the first French humanist photographers and pioneer of photojournalism) was such a seminal part of my life it became like an eye floater. That couple were always there somewhere waiting to pop into view to remind me what true passion and longing might be. Worse still, it was almost a holographic message on love and romance for my young, open mind, as it turned out the photograph was staged. There is a great backstory to the photograph to be read here. […]

  4. You’re so interesting! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So wonderful to discover somebody with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

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