si triste

By | photography

I spoke to Robert Doisneau only once. On the phone. I was photographing in Paris at the time and I happened to find a few old prints of him. When I told him he wanted to know which ones, and commented that they were possibly used for one of his books. When I told him that I was a photographer myself he asked what my subject was, and when I said, people mainly, the conversation became even more personal. At the time he was at home a lot, taking care of his wife who was terminally ill and he probably did very little photography. He really took the time to talk about photography; then wanted to know what I liked best of his work and to my surprise suggested the humorous photographs and the series of the man with the cello, which I knew, but never liked. He said he hoped he had made people happy with his photographs. I felt like he was testing me, but politely answered, I liked those categories “pas tellement” (not so much), quickly adding that of the books he made “La Banlieue de Paris” (with the beautiful text by Blaise Cendrars about the impoverished Paris suburbs of 1949) was my all-time favorite. There was a silence, of surprise maybe, then his friendly voice, “mais c’est si triste!…” (but that’s so sad…) The only reason – and it felt almost like an excuse – that I could think of, was that I grew up in a suburb myself and I was touched by the atmosphere. He liked that.