Robert Doisneau’s Contact Sheets

Yesterday, Google celebrated Robert Doisneau’s centenary (100th anniversary of his birth) with a doodle. In the doodle was the famous Doisneau photo — Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville — an internationally recognised symbol of young love in Paris. Here’s its contact sheet.

Also, there was an interview in Doisneau in that marvelous series, Contacts.

The above photo seemed like a testament to spontaneity of a street photographer — that of someone who just happened to look up from his Pernod, say. Let me disabuse you of that notion. Doisneau had seen the man and woman days earlier, near the school at which they were studying acting (as it later transpired). He was on assignment for Life magazine in 1950, for a story on romance in Paris, and hired the couple as models for the shot.

That he hired them and who the couple were, however, were not brought to light until the early 1990s, when lawsuits demanding compensation were filed by several people who claimed to be the models in the famous picture. Their names were Francoise Bornet and Jacques Carteaud.

Doisneau later came to hate the photo’s fame; as he saw himself as a realist — “a brutal thief of images”, he resentedhis reputation as a romantic photographer that this photo brought.

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How It First Appeared: Not Even the Largest Photo in the Story

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