In 1960, French photographer Robert Doisneau visited the United States for the first time to capture the up-and-coming destination of Palm Springs. He spent two weeks on assignment for Fortune magazine exploring the man-made oasis in the California desert. Known for his portraits of famous artists and cute Parisians, Doisneau was so inspired by the rich golfing greens and sky blue swimming pools that he used color film for the first time.
After the shoot, Doisneau went back to Paris by way of Hollywood, and a selection of his photos was published a few months later. The rest languished in a filing cabinet until they were discovered and returned to Doisneau’s living relatives in 2007. Now they’re part of an archive of 450,000 unique photos Doisneau compiled over the course of his 30-year career, and the star of an eponymous coffee table book recently published by Lannoo.
Doisneau got his start in the medium working in advertising but came into his own as a soldier photographing the aftermath of World War II. When he wasn’t snapping Charles de Gaulle in front of the Arc de Triomphe or Alberto Giacometti in his studio, Doisneau studied daily life in the suburbs of Paris until his death in 1994. He captured wealthy women at society parties and dirty children cartwheeling through the streets with the same level of detached interest.
His talent was in directing his subjects to create narratives with a strong sense of place, and he blurred the line between art and documentary. He hired actors to pose for one of his most iconic photos, Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (Kiss by the Town Hall)—but the chemistry in that moment is real. More importantly, all of his photos feel like they couldn’t have been captured in any other place or time. Check out a few photos from the archive of his rediscovered work, and a few classics, below.
Purchase Robert Doisneau on Lannoo's website.
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