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30.3.10

Doisneau's California Dreamin'





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Palm Springs 1960, Robert Doisneau
Everyone knows the Paris photographs of Robert Doisneau, from their Romanticized form in countless reproductions. A new exhibition in Paris, starting on April 1 at the Galerie Claude Bernard (7-9, rue des Beaux-Arts), considers a group of photographs from an assignment in California that Doisneau undertook as a photojournalist for Fortune in November 1960. Valérie Duponchelle has a long reflection on the photographer's view of the Golden State (Robert Doisneau sous le soleil de la Californie, March 29) for Le Figaro (my translation):
Doisneau, the poet of the suburbs, visiting the billionaires of the New World -- "Why did they send me to Palm Springs, California? To make photographs of golf. All I know is that one has to send a little white ball far away on some green grass, to put it in a hole barely big enough for it to fit in," is how he noted it in his souvenir book, this "near Parisian" [Parisien de proximité] who gave homage to little people, the "nice guy from Gentilly" as his fans know him. "Everyone here comes from far away, even the palm trees have come by road from Mexico, and the the grass seeds, which tend to fly away on the night wind, were fixed in the soil thanks to a rain of glue dumped from helicopters." [...]

Claude Bernard is showing 50 of these unknown photographs in his gallery and says that he is expecting 3,000 people to attend the vernissage on Wednesday night. "Doisneau brings a perspective that is a little shocked, child-like, amused by this spoiled America, these women wrapped in their chinchillas in the heat of the desert," says Claude Bernard. "His malice and his empathy toward human beings are always there, but there is also a mocking and melancholy tone, a Piaf side applied to the New World."
Ten new prints of each of these forgotten photos have been made, which will be on sale for between 3,000 and 5,500 € -- as Duponchelle notes, photography collectors who have purist tastes will not be satisfied by prints made so long after the photos were taken. Flammarion is publishing a new book on the photographs, with text by Jean-Paul Dubois.

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