Doisneau, Les Halles
Les Halles la nuit 1967 © Atelier Robert Doisneau
Les oiseaux 1973 © Atelier Robert Doisneau
Les filles au diable, 1933. © Atelier Robert Doisneau
Portrait à la cigarette, 1967. © Atelier Robert Doisneau
Marchande des Halles, 1953. © Atelier Robert Doisneau
Triporteur aux Halles. © Atelier Robert Doisneau
L’échaudoir de la rue Sauval, 1968 ©Atelier Robert Doisneau
Les Halles moved out of Paris, to Rungis ( outside of the city) in 1971, and Victor Baltard’s illustrious pavilions built there in 1866 were, as referred to by Jean-Claude Gautrand in his book about them, “assassinated”. In 2011, the improbable architecture that replaced them will in turn be demolished and replaced.
To commemorate these anniversaries and events, it was essential to make a call on Robert Doisneau, the photographer who from 1933 to his death in 1994 tirelessly frequented this neighborhood. “I had a lot of friends there, I was a sort of inoffensive photographer in this village and was considered as a a quiet maniac. I don’t understand anything about technocrats and their geometry. Their goals were profit margins, speculation, efficiency. This is the contrary to what I was looking for in Les Halles, where I found the pictures .” (Robert Doisneau).
At one time or another, all of the world’s great photographers explored the surrealist world vibrating day and night in the heart of Paris whose murky, marvelous, sometimes dangerous world was difficult to access. During the final moving process that resulted in a few rebellions (in the spirit of May, 1968), publication of a Paris Match’s special issue was blocked by political pressure.
Nevertheless, on the light tables there was a prestigious selection of color and black and white pictures. Moments and gests that reflected the visions of hundreds of photographers . Robert Doisneau went a bit farther. The essence of Les Halles could be felt behind each picture, the lives of the five thousand people working there at nightfall. He knew their habits, and frequented the zinc bars in the countless bistros. “There was a fabulous atmosphere, and he had such flair, you should have seen how he watched them, he loved them. For us,” commented his friend Pierre Delbos, “the spirit there was in total harmony with Robert.”
He was devoted to tracking the developments and adventures of the story that began for him in 1933. After the move and the demolition, Doisneau remained in the neighborhood, faithful to the local streets. But the strong boys “ les forts” of Les Halles were no longer there, the atmosphere around the zinc bars was no longer the same, and it showed in his pictures. Rungis lacked this atmosphere. Mechanics and concrete replaced them, tourists and shoppers became part of this new soulless space. At the bar, cola replaced glasses of wine, the city was “sweating boredom”. The hole of Les Halles and the cranes marked the break, the end of one world for a new, less poetic one that Robert Doisneau succeeded in capturing relentlessly. His pictures clearly demonstrated where his heart was. “Paris lost its belly, and a bit of its soul”.
The exhibition Doisneau Paris les Halles and the eponymous book that accompanies it are a faithful reflection. Exhibition curators Annette Doisneau and Francine Deroudille his daughters selected 150 prints, for the most part vintage. They added to well known pictures , a new vision of the work of Robert Doisneau by showing a series of previously unreleased color pictures of Les Halles taken during the 1960’s.
No doubt that with the name Robert Doisneau and the subject “Les Halles” we will see, despite freezing temperatures, long lines in front of the Paris City Hall, the backdrop to his infamous picture Baiser de l'Hôtel de ville.
For our Japanese readers, a Robert Doisneau retrospective will take place at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography from March 24 through May 6, 2012. (東京都写真美術館) (Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita Meguro-ku Tokyo) Tel. 03-3280-0099／Fax. 03-3280-0033
Doisneau Paris Les Halles
Curators Annette Doisneau, Francine Deroudille
From February 8 through April 28, 2012
Paris City Hall
29 rue de Rivoli
+33 (0)1 42 76 50 49
Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm
Doisneau Paris les Halles
Catalogue de l'exposition
Textes de Vladimir Vasak
Conception Atelier Robert Doisneau
Flammarion Broché 160 pages 230x280mm