Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Show of an icon

There’s been quite a number of interesting exhibitions ‘on offer’ recently and we’ve managed to visit several, such as that of the renowned French photographer Robert Doisneau at the Turku Art Museum.

Doisneau (1912-1994) was one of the pioneers of photojournalism whose passion was to capture meaningful moments of the everyday life of ordinary people, both young and old, most often on the streets of Paris. According to his own words, however, he didn’t photograph life as it was but as he would have liked it to be.

His most iconic photo The Kiss (by the townhall) or Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville published in the Life magazine in 1950 has become the symbol of young love in Paris. Even I happen to have a copy of it inside my Paris travel guide. (I haven’t been this old forever, you know.) Some 40 years later a couple sued Doisneau claiming they were the lovers in the photo that had been taken without their consent and demanded the rights to it. It was then revealed The Kiss was to some extent staged, which was a bit of a sensation but actually a storm in a teacup if you ask me.

A modest gentlemanly professional like Doisneau would never have taken such an intimate photo without permission, especially in those days, especially in a country where he might have lost its rights because of that. In fact, he had seen the couple kissing and had asked if they would repeat the kiss for him, which they readily did. He had also given the lady in the photo an original signed print which she sold half a century later at an auction for €155,000!

Sculptor Jean Tinguely.

Writer Simone de Beauvoir.

Sculptor Alberto Giacometti.
Sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle.

Some of Doisneau’s insightful portraits were also shown at the exhibition. But most of all I enjoyed the 77-minute biographical documentary Robert Doisneau: Through the Lens (Robert Doisneau, le révolté du merveilleux) directed by his granddaughter Clémentine Deroudille that was running nonstop on two tv screens throughout the show. I found myself mesmerised by it. Personages like Doisneau who led a balanced life despite all the talent, success and fame preferring to keep themselves in the background are a rare resource these days. Do not miss the film if you ever have a chance to watch it!

Filmmaker Jacques Tati.

Painter Fernand Léger.
The Turku exhibition closed some time ago but there is one ongoing at the Lucca Center of Contemporary Art in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy (until Nov 12) and another one at the Tourist Office of Urrugne in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in France (until Oct 13). For more information and photos of Doisneau’s works you can visit the website of Atelier Robert Doisneau founded by his two daughters.


  1. Those are wonderful pictures that so vividly show a different way of life. Every picture tells a story. Sarah x

    1. It is wonderful that Doisneau's daughters are taking such good care of their father's legacy and keeping his magnificent photos touring the world.