Robert Doisneau: The story behind his famous ‘Kiss’

French photographer Robert Doisneau, is renowned for his work depicting everyday moments in the life of Parisians. One of his most famous photos, “Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville),” a picture of a couple kissing that has graced thousands of postcards and posters, seems to be the epitome of his spontaneous style. However, after it became a classic photo – forever associated with Paris and romance – it provoked lawsuits, including one that cast the photo’s serendipity in a new light. The photo was taken by Doisneau in 1950 for Life Magazine after Doisneau was instructed to get shots of couples in Paris for a spread. Its popularity erupted years later, when a publisher asked Doisneau in 1986 if he could use the photo for a poster and Doisneau allowed it.

At least one couple incorrectly believed themselves to be the two seen embracing in Doisneau’s photo. Jean and Denise Lavergne told him so over lunch one day. At the time, Doisneau said nothing to disprove their statement. Still believing themselves to be the couple, the Lavergnes sued Doisneau for more than $18,000, claiming that he had used their likenesses without permission. A second suit came around the same time from a woman named Françoise Delbart (who now goes by her married name of Françoise Bornet). She sued the photographer in 1993 for a share of future sales and an additional $3,773. Because of the two lawsuits, Doisneau revealed that the picture had in fact been staged after he had seen Ms. Bornet and Jacques Carteaud kissing and asked them if they could do it again for a photo. Doisneau then photographed Bornet and Carteau, both hopeful actors, in three different locations, which included the final location of near the Hôtel de Ville. After they posed, Doisneau gave Bornet a print of the photo with his stamp and signature.

Courts dismissed the claims of both the Lavergnes and Bornet in 1993, saying that the photo couldn’t be used to positively identify anyone in it. Bornet auctioned her print of the photo in 2005, where it was sold for the equivalent of $242,000. “The photo was posed,” Bornet said in an interview with French media. “But the kiss was real.”

See more pictures of Robert Doisneau.


3 thoughts on “Robert Doisneau: The story behind his famous ‘Kiss’

  1. Robert Doisneau. Paris en liberté
    29 settembre 2012 – 3 febbraio 2013 / 29 September 2012 – 3 February 2013
    Palazzo delle Esposizioni, via Nazionale , Roma

    Robert Doisneau e Parigi: un binomio inscindibile tra uno dei più grandi fotografi francesi e la città che ha amato e immortalato con il suo obiettivo.
    Più di 240 fotografie originali, scattate da Doisneau nella Ville Lumière tra il 1934 e il 1991 e raggruppate tematicamente ripercorrendo i soggetti a lui più cari, sono esposte in una grande rassegna antologica che sarà allestita a Palazzo delle Esposizioni dal 29 settembre 2012 al 3 febbraio 2013. L’esposizione condurrà il visitatore in una emozionante passeggiata nei giardini di Parigi, lungo la Senna, per le strade del centro e della periferia, e poi nei bistrot, negli atelier di moda e nelle gallerie d’arte della capitale francese.

    Robert Doisneau and Paris, an encounter between two inseparable partners: one of the greatest French photographers, and the city that he loved and immortalised with his lens.
    Over 240 original photographs taken by Doisneau in the Ville Lumière between 1934 and 1991, grouped by themes around his favourite subjects, are to be displayed in a major anthological retrospective at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni from 29 September 2012 to 3 February 2013.

  2. Pingback: Robert Doisneau a Palazzo delle Esposizioni | Cooked News

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