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The photos of Doisneau: Paris on film

  • New York Times News Service
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012, at 12 a.m.

I’ve written before about my affection for the photographs of Robert Doisneau, and it seems I’m not the only one, as collections of his work are regularly published.

“Paris: Les Halles Market” (Flammarion, 160 pages, $45) is a grouping of Doisneau’s work done in the Parisian area that had been a marketplace for 900 years. But in the early 1960s, in an uncanny echoing of the urban renewal that was being pushed by American planners such as Robert Moses, French bureaucrats decided that Les Halles was not only outmoded but a cultural canker and began efforts to tear it down.

Doisneau had been shooting in and around Les Halles since the early 1930s, and hurled himself into the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save the marketplace. (It was relocated beginning in 1969.) In the process, he took hundreds of shots, and the best of them, as well as some of his older work, is collected in the new volume.

The book shows Doisneau working in the photo-essay tradition of Life magazine. He’s not trying to get one ultimate shot, but rather accumulate detail. The care Doisneau lavishes on the peasant faces of the men and women who were following in the footsteps of their grandparents and great-grandparents, is quite moving. These are people Victor Hugo would have written novels about — and did.

A marvelous work of recorded history, and of artistry as well.

In the pipeline

Macmillan will publish “This Show Will Travel,” a book by art historian Ann Fenterstock that links art and economics and details how artists serve as the leading edge of real estate gentrification. … Da Capo will publish a biography about Aretha Franklin titled (no surprise here) “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” Continuing with the prevailing theme of initials, R.J. Smith will write. … Journalist Joanna Connors has written an investigation into her own rape. The book is called “I Will Find You,” and the publisher will be Grove/Atlantic.

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