“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”
TOTING HIS TRUSTY CAMERA through the avenues of Paris, viewing the world through the lyrical eye of his Leica, Robert Doisneau gave us thousands of frozen moments of wit and whimsy, innocence and romance. And more often than not, playful story-pictures kissed with poetry.
Today, on its search home-page, Google celebrates the centenary of the popular French photographer with a Doodle that reflects all those aspects of the artist.
There, on the far-right in this photographic quartet, is Doisneau’s most iconic image, “Kiss by the Hotel de Ville (Le baiser de l’hotel de ville),” the stirring liplock that appeared in Life magazine in 1950, featuring a couple of aspiring 20something actors (who would, according to lore, part ways less than a year later).
The image was staged. The romance was real. And the moment’s artistic heat burns still.
“I don't photograph life as it is,” Doisneau famously said, “but life as I would like it to be.”
(Real life, of course, could prove harsher: The woman in the image, Françoise Bornet [nee Delbart], sued Doisneau in 1993 for compensation and royalties; the case was dismissed. The artist died the following year.)
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Doisneau so frequently found art, though, in the pure and unposed physical exuberance of children at play. Google reflects that by choosing his 1943 photo (at far left in the logo) shot near the Eiffel Tower, titled “Tug on the Champ de Mars (Le remorqueur du Champ de Mars).”
The Doodle is topped by the striking 1971 image “Three little white children, Parc Monceau (Trois petits enfants blancs, parc Monceau),” in which the trio of white-clad kids pass the Parisian monument to writer Guy de Maupassant. And Google — such a fan of Street Views — completes its thoughtful logo curation with 1977’s sad-sweet “Dog on Wheels (Le chien a roulettes).”
“I am not a hunter of pictures,” Doisneau once said. “I am a fisher of pictures.”
Doisneau, too, was a master of fractions, patiently waiting for that split-second that separated art from the visually commonplace. And yet along city streets, he delighted in finding black-and-white art within the commonplace. “I like people for their weaknesses and faults. I get on well with ordinary people,” said the much-honored artist, who in 1984 was appointed a Chevalier (Knight) of the Order of the Légion d’honneur.
All those split-seconds on Parisian streets added up to a pioneering career that spanned more than a half-century and rivaled that of countryman Henri Cartier-Bresson.
“A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there — even if you put them end to end, they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds, snatched from eternity,” Doisneau notably said. Even one of his many books was titled “Three Seconds From Eternity.”
Today, thanks to Google, viewers can focus for a full 24 hours on Doisneau’s eternal brilliance.
[ALSO THIS MONTH: Google celebrates groundbreaking British photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge]
DOISNEAU SPEAKS OF TRADE SECRETS:
Comic Riffs’ TOP TWELVE ‘GOOGLE DOODLES’ THAT HONOR MUSICAL & VISUAL ARTISTS (*before today):
1. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
2. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
3. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
4. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
5. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
6. CHARLES ADDAMS: THE SPOOKY DOODLE
7. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
8. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
9. DIEGO RIVERA: THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE MURAL
10. ALEXANDER CALDER: THE MOBILE DOODLE
11. WILL EISNER: THE SPIRITED DOODLE
12. RICHARD SCARRY: THE BUSTLING NEIGHBORHOOD