Robert Doisneau : Seeing Paris In Music

"Wandering is a lonely vice. I would be very ashamed to show my hesitations, my regrets and, above all, my unreasonable expectations" - Robert Doisneau

Street party, Paris, 1959 Photograph: Robert Doisneau/Gamma-Rappho

Street party, Paris, 1959 Photograph: Robert Doisneau/Gamma-Rappho

From the mid-1940s to the 1980s, Robert Doisneau (14 April 1912 – 1 April 1994) walked the street of Paris photographing the city’s musicians.

 

French cellist Maurice Baquet, 1958 ‘When our paths crossed, I found the man who taught me happiness,’ said Baquet of Doisneau. Their collaboration opened up a new seam of freedom and creativity for the photographer. As soon as they met after the second world war, they began making a book that appeared in 1981 and featured special effects, photomontages and collages

French cellist Maurice Baquet, 1958:
‘When our paths crossed, I found the man who taught me happiness,’ said Baquet of Doisneau.

Maurice Baquet (above) was a high achiever with high goals: musician (1st prize at the Conservatoire de Paris), skier (member of the 1936 French Olympic Team) and mountain climber (showcased in movies, including Premier de Cordée).

The collaboration between the brilliant cellist and skier Maurice Baquet and Robert Doisneau opened up a new sphere of playfulness, freedom and creativity for the photographer. When they met just after the war, they immediately began working together on a book, published in 1981 under the title Ballade pour Violoncelle et Chambre Noire. In addition to all the drollery and laughter that Doisneau’s photographs exude, the book shows all the magic of his work: montage, trick photography, photomontage, collage, warping and fractioning, etc.

 

Robert Doisneau

Singer Renaud in the suburbs in 1988

“I don’t bring anyone along. Strolling around is a solitary vice. I would be far too ashamed to show my hesitations, my tracing back, and most of all, my unreasonable expectations.”

 

Robert DoisneauAntony, the Sunday Bugler, 1947 Rolleiflex camera slung over his shoulder, Robert Doisneau travelled for years around in Paris and its suburbs. Throughout his very human photographs, a love of music is mingled with an admiration for the people making it.

Antony, the Sunday Bugler, 1947

“In my ideal photography school, there would be a bouquet teacher and a music teacher. We would not train violin virtuosos, but we would explain the role of music, which sheds light on past civilisations—a very necessary further education.”

 

Maurice Baquet - Robert Doisneau Paris MEtro

Maurice Baquet on the Paris Metro

 

Robert DoisneauJuliette Gréco, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1947 This photograph captures the 21-year-old chanteuse and her dog, Bidet, who at this point was probably more famous than his mistress. Bidet appeared at Théâtre Montparnasse alongside Gérard Philippe in Alfred Savoir’s play Le Figurant de la Gaîté – Doisneau was illustrating a report on the mutt for the newspaper Point of View

Juliette Gréco, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1947. This photograph captures the 21-year-old chanteuse and her dog, Bidet, who at this point was probably more famous than his mistress. Bidet appeared at Théâtre Montparnasse alongside Gérard Philippe in Alfred Savoir’s play Le Figurant de la Gaîté – Doisneau was illustrating a report on the mutt for the newspaper Point of View

 

Maurice Baquet - Robert Doisneau

Maurice Baquet

Robert Doisneau Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 1950

“I am putting together a reportage on Saint-Germain-des-Prés – the basement nightclubs, the crowd one finds there, and the artists – I mean, the absolute cutting edge of Western society. This new Montparnasse is very important for me who believes in archives ageing well.”

 

Maurice Baquet - Robert Doisneau

Maurice Baquet

 

Robert Doisneau

Les Rita Mitsouko at Parc de la Villette, 1988
In the 1980s, Doisneau photographed a whole new generation of artists, including Rita Mitsouko, Les Négresses Vertes and Renaud

“My ear has gone fallow for classical music, but song helps me. In the street, you whistle little tunes that give you courage.”

 

Robert DoisneauComposer, theorist and writer Pierre Schaeffer, 1961 Pierre Betz, editor of the magazine Le Point, commissioned Doisneu to report on ‘the adventure of music in the 20th century’. In 1961, he immortalised the avant-garde musicians Pierre Boulez, Pierre Schaeffer, Henri Dutilleux and André Jolivet, photographing the artists with the tools of their trade

Composer, theorist and writer Pierre Schaeffer, 1961
Pierre Betz, editor of the magazine Le Point, commissioned Doisneu to report on ‘the adventure of music in the 20th century’. In 1961, he immortalised the avant-garde musicians Pierre Boulez, Pierre Schaeffer, Henri Dutilleux and André Jolivet, photographing the artists with the tools of their trade

 

Maurice Baquet - Robert Doisneau

Maurice Baquet

Robert Doisneau The Gypsies of Montreuil, 1950 :

The Gypsies of Montreuil, 1950

 

Doisneau et la Musique is at Cité de la Musique, Paris.