Rome, Ara Pacis Museum hosts a retrospective exhibition on photographer Robert Doisneau

Through Sept. 4, the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome is hosting a major retrospective on the celebrated French photographer Robert Doisneau, who is told through more than 130 images.

A retrospective exhibition, curated by Gabriel Bauret, on the famous French photographer Robert Doisneau, through more than 130 images from the collection of theAtelier Robert Doisneau in Montrouge, is on view until Sept. 4 at the Ara Pacis Museum. The exhibition is promoted and produced by Roma Culture - Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padova e Rovigo and Silvana Editoriale Project. Organizational support from Zètema Progetto Cultura. Radio partner Dimensione Suono Soft.

Along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau is considered one of the founding fathers of French humanist photography and street photojournalism. With his lens he captures the daily lives of the men and women who populate Paris and its banlieue, with all the emotions of the gestures and situations in which they are engaged. The itinerary is divided into 11 sections: Concierges (1945-1953), a series of shots dedicated to the porters of Paris because, as Doisneau states, “The real Paris cannot be conceived without its porters.” Thus were born such memorable portraits as Concierge aux lunettes, Les Concierges de la Rue du Dragon and Madame Augustin. The second section is Enfances (1934-1956): the subjects photographed by Doisneau are often complicit in his intentions, particularly the children who populate and animate suburban streets. The photographer feels at ease in their company, as evidenced by the large number of shots featuring them since the mid-1930s. We continue with Occupation et Libération (1940-1944): when Robert Doisneau finally achieves the status of an independent photographer, his momentum is broken by the war and theOccupation. Daily life and winters are hard, but the Liberation will offer him the opportunity to restore the effervescence that reigned supreme in Paris at that time, as in the shot entitled Camouflage,[Libération de Paris].

The fifth section is L’Après-Guerre (1945-1953): the postwar revival is portrayed in the uncertain step of a child in Les Premiers Pas or in the festively dressed girls of Dimanche matin or again in the smiles on the faces of Les Habitants de la Rue du Transvaal .Labor is the protagonist of the sixth section, Le Monde du travail (1935-1950): Doisneau worked for five years in the advertising department of the Renault workshops, which, he says, allowed him to “get to know the world of those who wake up early.” On display are some of the shots Doisneau took of workers in the Paris suburbs. We come to the seventh section, Le Théâtre de la rue: in the school of the street, far richer and more captivating than any other schooling, Doisneau found a beauty, disorder and splendor that seduced him. From the vegetable peddler portrayed in Les Oignons, to the Pêcheur à la mouche sèche or even the Père de famille, no one escapes Doisneau’s attentive gaze.

The eighth section is Scènes d’intérieur (1943-1970): interior scenes in which, quoting Jean-Claude Lemagny, “the ridiculous side of situations is accepted primarily by its victims. We are not interested in whether the models are aware of being funny or moving,” as in Créatures de rêve. Next comes the section Mode et Mondanités (1950-1952): in 1950 Robert Doisneau met Edmonde Charles-Roux, a journalist for Vogue, and became a chronicler of Parisian life and the artistic life of the time. This section therefore brings together some of Doisneau’s photographs as a witness to the grand balls and lavish weddings of the postwar period. With Portraits (1942-1961) we delve into a perhaps lesser-known part of Doisneau’s oeuvre, that consisting of the numerous portraits, often made on commission. In front of his lens parade painters, draftsmen, writers, thespians, filmmakers, actors, scientists such as Picasso, Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Cocteau and many others with whom the photographer established sincere friendships that would influence the fate of his photographs. The tenth section is Une certaine idée du bonheur (1945-1961): “What I was trying to show was,” Doisneau recalls, “a world where I would feel good, where people would be kind, where I would find the tenderness I hoped to receive. My pictures were like a proof that this world can exist.” Whether in an impromptu dance in the street as in La Dernière Valse du 14 juillet or in portraits of weddings or even the iconic Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville . The exhibition ends with the section Bistrots (1948-1957): dragged by Robert Giraud, Doisneau discovered the environment of the bistros and the banlieue of Paris; the street thus gives way to the methodical exploration of the most unexpected universes where Doisneau would eventually feel at home; memorable portraits such as the one to Mademoiselle Anita would result.

Whether, therefore, the photographs were made on commission or were the result of his free wandering around Paris, we see the delineation of a style imbued with a particular forma mentis, which also shines through in his writings and in the captions of the photos; a style that mixes charm and fantasy, but also a freedom of expression not far from surrealism. The multitude of characters and stories that populate Doisneau’s work translates into an artistic attitude and a philosophy of life. If style is the man, as Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon says, similarly Doisneau’s photography identifies with some of his subjects to express a kind of restlessness or melancholy. Indeed, Doisneau’s work is an expression of an empathetic gaze, which even becomes tenderly participatory when he photographs lovers and children.

“I like,” he continues, “people for their weaknesses and flaws. I get along well with ordinary people. We talk. We start talking about the weather and little by little we get to the important things. When I photograph them it’s not as if I’m there examining them with a magnifying glass, like a cold, scientific observer. It’s a very fraternal thing, and it’s wonderful to shine a light on those people who are never in the spotlight.” “The photographer should be like blotting paper, he should allow himself to be penetrated by the poetic moment. His technique should be like an animal function, it must act automatically.”

Within the exhibition itinerary, clips from Clémentine Deroudille ’s film Robert Doisneau are shown. Le Révolté du merveilleux and an interview with curator Gabriel Bauret.

The exhibition is accompanied by the Robert Doisneau catalog, published by Silvana Editoriale.

For all information, you can visit the official website of the Ara Pacis.

Pictured: Robert Doisneau, L’information scolaire, Paris 1956

Rome, Ara Pacis Museum hosts a retrospective exhibition on photographer Robert Doisneau
Rome, Ara Pacis Museum hosts a retrospective exhibition on photographer Robert Doisneau

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