Blaise Cendrars and Robert Doisneau: Paris’ Suburb

Originally published by Seghers in 1949 and later reissued by Denoël in 1983, this collection had long eluded enthusiasts. Its recent re-release, featuring a fresh graphic design by the renowned Philippe Apeloig, aligns with Denoël editions’ ongoing celebration of the Swiss writer since 2022.
Robert Doisneau‘s contribution to the book by Blaise Cendrars is noteworthy. Through his lens, Doisneau captures the essence of post-war Parisian suburbs, providing a visual narrative that complements Cendrars’ dense and poetic text. The images by Doisneau have become timeless classics, celebrated in this updated edition with a new graphic layout. Together, the collaboration of Cendrars and Doisneau takes readers on a journey through time, offering a unique perspective on the suburban landscapes of Paris and showcasing the artistry of two great talents.
For over sixty years, Robert Doisneau meticulously documented the lives of Parisians and suburban dwellers, spanning from the pre-war era in Les Halles to the pre-occupied Gentilly, the profound void of the Occupation from 1940 to 1944, his native southern suburbs, the existentialist Saint-Germain des Prés, and the new cities of the 1980s. His thousands of images transcend mere documentary value, adhering to a holistic perspective that collectively forms a body of work expressing a unique vision. No single category has successfully encapsulated the richness and diversity of his oeuvre. Doisneau is foremost the engaged witness of a history in motion, haunted by profound reflections on the passage of time, the superfluous, the unfinished, and modernity in the Baudelairian sense of the term. This is why he excelled in capturing what would inevitably disappear.

In 1945, a young Robert Doisneau was commissioned, by Denoël editions, to produce a report on Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), an already famous writer. This order is intended to promote his novel L’Homme foudroyé. Received by the novelist in his hideout in Aix-en-Provence, Doisneau finds a hermit there who has returned to writing after four years of silence. Very quickly, the meeting between the writer and the photographer is woven into complicity and friendship. The two men talk, walk, and discover each other. Meanwhile, Cendrars writes, writes without respite: will come La Main coupe, Bourlinguer and Le Lotissement du ciel. The photographer’s gaze rests, for his part, constantly, in the light of Provence, on the intimacy and solitude of the work of an immense writer at the peak of his talent, in the fullness of his life and of his work.

A portrait of Robert Doisneau

About the Author

Robert Doisneau, born on April 14, 1912, in Gentilly, Val-de-Marne, Paris, is a renowned French photographer known for his poetic approach to street photography. Throughout his career, he captured everyday French life in playful and surreal images, often highlighting amusing juxtapositions or human oddities.
Initially studying engraving and lithography at École Estienne in Paris, Doisneau considered the working-class streets of Gentilly as his most significant source of education. He began amateur photography at sixteen, starting with cobblestones before progressing to children and adults. After graduating in 1929, he entered professional photography, working for advertising photographer André Vigneau.
In 1932, Doisneau sold his first photo-story to the Excelsior newspaper, and in 1934, he became an industrial and advertising photographer for Renault. Following his dismissal in 1939, he sustained himself through advertising and postcard photography. Hired by the Rapho photo agency in 1939, he documented both the occupation and liberation of Paris during World War II.
Post-war, he resumed advertising and magazine work, contributing to French Vogue from 1948 to 1952. In the 1950s, Doisneau actively participated in Group XV, aiming to enhance the artistry and technical aspects of photography. Known for his humor and anti-establishment values, he focused on street photography, portraying a diverse range of people and events. Doisneau lived a modest life in the Paris suburb of Montrouge and passed away on April 1, 1994, in Broussais, France. He received several awards, including the Prix Kodak in 1947 and the Prix Niepce in 1956. He was appointed Chevalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour in 1984 and was the subject of major retrospectives at various institutions globally.

A portrait of Blaise Cendrars by Robert Doisneau

Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Édition Denoël (2023)
Language: French
Size: 9.21 x 10.70 inches
ISBN-13: 978-2207178737

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