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.”