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Norms do… Robert Doisneau

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It’s mid January, and with the Christmas stocks cleared away and the January sales dwindling fast, the shops are filling with all things red – roses, truffles, cards adorned with hearts and pink champagne, all in the name of Valentine’s Day. I must confess, while I do find it slightly demeaning to be told I am loved just because a saint’s day says it should be so – and only once a year at that – I am a romantic at heart and do turn into a little softy around mid-February time. In anticipation of this great time of romance, the Daily Norm has looked to the one and only true source of all things amour… the city of Paris. And not only is Paris the undoubted City of Love, in the superbly nostalgic black and white moments captured by the world-renowned photographer, Robert Doisneau (1912-1994), it provides the backcloth to some of the most iconic romantic images ever captured on film. When I think of the ultimate image of love, I think of Robert Doisneau’s most celebrated photograph, Le basier de l’Opera (1950) (The Opera Kiss). Perhaps not quite as famous as his Hotel de Ville kiss, it is nonetheless postcard perfect: 1950s Paris, going about its way, people rushing up and down the stairs at Opera, traffic passing by the grand Opera Garnier, and all the while, the world seems to stop as a couple meet, and kiss, in the middle of the staircase. In fact, here at The Daily Norm, we love this image so much that the Norms have decided to reenact it. And so, voila, for your viewing pleasure, here is the latest Norm creation as the Norms do Doisneau…

Norms Kiss at the Opera (after Doisneau) (acrylic on canvas, 2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

And here is Doisneau’s photographic original:

Le baiser de l'Opera (Robert Doisneau, 1950)

“There are days when the technique of an aimless stroll – without timetable or destination – works like a charm, flushing out pictures from the non-stop urban spectacle”

Robert Doisneau

“The “Hôtel de Ville lovers” were part of a series, on which I had already worked for a week and which I had to complete with two or three photos of that kind. But the fact that they were set up never bothered me. After all, nothing is more subjective than l’objectif (the French word for “lens”), we never show things as they “really”are. The world I was trying to present was one where I would feel good, where people would be friendly, where I could find the tenderness I longed for. My photos were like a proof that such a world could exist.”

Robert Doisneau

As you can see, I made a bit more of the Opera House, since it is so beautiful and its details undoubtedly stunning. The fact that my Opera House leans the other way wasn’t exactly intended, but once it started heading that way, there was no stopping it. Painting straight lines is already difficult enough with a hand balancing in mid air, but apparently my steady hand has a tendency to lean to the right.

Le bazier de l’Opera is by no means the only shot taken by Doisneau which is deserving of recgonition. Flicking through any collection of Robert Doisneau photographs is like being transported back down memory lane to a time of idyllic laissez faire. Of course, German-occupied Paris and the post-war city were far from easy times for the Parisians, but there is something about the goodness of human nature which Doisneau manages to capture in his iconic scenes of ordinary life. Plus of course the black and white pallet instantly transforms the image to one having great atmospheric nostalgic effect. In this way, the work of Doisneau has immortalised the magic of Paris, capturing poetry in the commonplace lives of its inhabitants and emphasising the artistic beauty which ripens at every corner of the city. I urge those of you who are not familiar with his work to buy a volume to look through on a sunday afternoon, some Billie Holiday playing in the background, a coffee or glass of wine on standby. You should however be warned that in following my advice, you will probably start hating the modern, inelegant world around you. But like Doisneau, pick up a camera or a paintbrush, and you’ll be surprised what magic you can find in everyday life. In the meantime I leave you with a small gallery of Doisneau shots to muse over. Until next time…

All the photographs are the copyright of Robert Doisneau

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