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Peering beneath the facade

Robert Doisneaus famous Paris photography visits the FAC


Baiser de lHotel de Ville, on display at the Fine Arts - Center.
  • Baiser de lHotel de Ville, on display at the Fine Arts Center.

Paris: broad tree-lined avenues, moonlight over the River Seine and a glass of red wine on a street-front terrace. But this is not Doisneau's Paris. Delving beneath that romanticized facade, the exhibit presents a recovering post-World War II city where life is hard and the weather is bleak, but there is a shared resolve in the everyday lives captured in the photographer's lens.

The Fine Arts Center presents a retrospective of 117 black-and-white photographs by Frenchman Robert Doisneau (1912-1994). Shot from 1945 to the early 1960s, his images of Paris provide a porthole into an unfamiliar side of this well-known city.

Doisneau is famous for ubiquitous images like "Baiser de l'Htel de Ville" (Kiss at the Hotel de Ville), 1950, but he was also a respected reportage photographer. During World War II he forged documents as a member of the French resistance and after the war covered France for local and international periodicals including Vogue and LIFE.

His main love was Paris; however, his photographs do not revel in the city's physical beauty, but more in its people. Even a few postcard shots remain connected to everyday normality. In "La Seine, Quai Branly," 1961, the Eiffel Tower is shot behind 18 pairs of underwear drying on a washing line.

Doisneau's images capture humor, joy and despair, but primarily he photographed people going about their everyday lives: people drinking in a bar or chatting to friends and children playing in the streets.

The collection includes the ubiquitous "Baiser" an image that evokes the Paris we know and love: the romantic city where passion can stop time. Seen in this context, it takes on a greater power contrasted against the other images' gritty reality.

Coming away from the exhibition there is a sense of having seen a Paris lived by Parisians.

capsule Robert Doisneau's Paris

Through Jan. 2

The Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Hours: Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m.

Adults $5; seniors $3; children ages 6-16, $2


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