Robert Doisneau is one the most well known French photographers. He focused on people photography, making images of common people as he wandered through the streets of Paris and its suburbs.
Born on April 14, 1912 in Gentilly, a suburb of Paris, he stumbled in his early studies and had to enter a craft school at the age of 13 instead of becoming an engineer, as his family had wanted. The school gave a Doisneau a very limited art training, which he complemented with evening classes in life drawing and still life. Doisneau's interest in photography started in 1929, and he started as a professional in 1934. He worked for Renault until he was fired in 1939.
In 1939, after meeting with Charles Rado (founder of the photography agency Rapho), he decided to become an independant photojournalist, but after only a few assignments the French army called him up, where he served until 1940. He then worked for the Resistance movement until the end of the war. At the same time, he produced postcards to earn a little money.
In 1947, he won a prize in a contest sponsored by Kodak.
In 1949, Doisneau signed a contract with Vogue, where he worked until 1952. In 1952, he started to work as a freelance photographer. He died in Paris in April 1994.
Doisneau once remarked: "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."
Major fine art photography retrospectives for Doisneau have been mounted at the Bibliothèque National in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago and George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. Over 40 books have been published on his work.
A photograph by him holds the world auction record for a 20th-century French photographer at about $240,000.