|The Kiss at Hotel de Ville, 1950, © atelier Robert Doisneau|
It shouldn't be a surprise that my very first boyfriend, whom I met on my very first day at New England Conservatory in Boston when I was barely 18, resembled this dashing smoocher not a little: rumpled jacket, artistically tousled hair, bohemian scarf and ever-present cigarette. I'm not sure I ever made the connection between that troubled but brilliant musician I spent the first three years of my adulthood with and the man in the by-then forgotten photograph I had left in my childhood bedroom, but seeing it again after so many years, hanging in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, it was almost laughably apparent.
|The Ballad of Pierrette d'Orient, 1950, © atelier Robert Doisneau|
Little did I know at 14 that this stolen kiss was only the tip of the iceberg in Doisneau's arsenal of Paris moments. Stumbling transfixed through the exhibition, I enthusiastically drank in the snapshots of humanity all around me: the wonder in a young girl's eyes as she looks at the Mona Lisa for the first time; a frumpy old wife's resentful glare at the show-girl whose arm is casually resting on her husband's knee; a scrubby boy's look of longing as he stares into a toy store window, the marvel in the eyes of a group of young men staring up at the Eiffel Tower.
|Pont d'Iéna, 1945, © atelier Robert Doisneau|
And this, for me, is what makes Doisneau one of the greatest photographers of all time: his ability to capture an indescribable moment. Because, as he so eloquently put it in the quote that opens this post, it is these perfect, sublime moments that make life worth living.
As I write these words, a few lines from Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece Into the Woods ring out in my head (ironically introduced to me by that self-same first boyfriend):
"Oh, if life were made of moments!... even now and then a bad one--"
"But, if life were only moments, then you'd never know you had one..."
|Self-portrait with Rolleiflex, 1947, © atelier Robert Doisneau|
If you live for unforgettable moments like Robert here and I do, don't miss this chance to see hundreds of his photographs, shot between 1934 and 1991 and exclusively in Paris, in this beautifully curated exhibit. For more information such as opening times and address, see my Exhibits on Now page.
All images courtesy of Azienda Speciale Palaexpo