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ROBERT DOISNEAU (1912 – 1994)

Robert Doisneau was born in 1912 in Gentilly in the Val-de-Marne, France. He studied engraving at the École Estienne in Chantilly, and later learned photography in the advertising department of a pharmaceutical firm. He began photographing details of objects in 1930, reportedly because he was too shy to photograph people, which would later become his best-known work. Doisneau became an assistant to the sculptor André Vigneau before taking a job as an industrial and advertising photographer for the Renault auto factory at Billancourt in 1934.  He was fired in 1939 (for being late), and began freelance advertising and postcard photography to earn his living.

Doisneau worked for the Rapho photo agency for several months until he was drafted in 1939. He was a member of the Résistance both as a soldier and as a photographer, using his engraving skills to forge passports and identification papers. He photographed the Occupation and Liberation of Paris. 

Immediately after the war he returned to freelance work for LIFE magazineand other leading international magazines. Doisneau’s most famous image, “Le Baiser de L’Hôtel de Ville” (The Kiss), was taken for LIFE in Paris and would remain at the center of a legal and financial dispute which lasted years. Against his inclinations, Doisneau also briefly photographed high-society and fashion for VOGUE Paris from 1948 to 1951. In addition to his reportage, he has photographed many artists including Alberto Giacometti, Jean Cocteau, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso.

Robert Doisneau won the Le Prix Kodak in 1947. He was awarded the Prix Niépce in 1956 and acted as a consultant to Expo '67, Canada. A short film, “Le Paris de Robert Doisneau”, was made in 1973. 

Doisneau was awarded Chevelier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1984, and resided in Paris until his death in 1994.

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