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Responses to Robert Doisneau's Paris

April 26 - June 1, 2013

sites/insights image
Robert Doisneau, Le Baiser du Trottoir (Kiss on the Sidewalk), 1950,
from the portfolio Robert Doisneau, 1979. Gelatin silver print, 18/100.
Gift of Donald T. Johnson '61. SLU 82.38.1.

HIST 254: Modern France
Spring 2013/Dr. Judith DeGroat
Assignment Guide

This semester, we will collaborate with the Brush Art Gallery to develop an exhibition of photographs by Robert Doisneau (French, 1912-1994) from the University’s permanent collection. Trained as a lithographer, Doisneau later became a self-taught industrial photographer for the Renault automobile factory outside of Paris while developing an interest in photojournalism. He used these skills as a forger for the Resistance during the Nazi occupation. Following the Liberation, he worked as a staff photographer for Vogue and then turned to freelance photography. Doisneau is well known for what appear to be candid photographs of everyday life in Paris, but they are often carefully composed representations.

For this project, you will provide historical analyses and aesthetic interpretations of selected photographs by Robert Doisneau. Your individual essays will be used as text panels for the exhibition. In addition, working in small groups, you will choose an image and develop a collective response, which may be written, visual, or a combination of the two. The subject of your research might be the role of the Parisian concierge or the importance of bread in French daily life from the 1950s to 1970s. How were neighborhood communities organized? What sort of leisure activities did people engage in? What was housing like in the city? The role of café́s, public squares, and markets are all topics to explore, as are music genres, monuments, and civic ceremonies.

An excerpt from Terry Barrett’s Criticizing Photographs and a reading guide will be used as a starting point for a discussion in the gallery on Thursday, 21 February, as we explore ways of working with images. We will also view François Truffaut’s Four Hundred Blows (1959), a film set in post-World War II Paris during a period of housing shortages and economoic dislocation.


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