Sixty-eight

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Au Pont de l’Alma

c1953 by Robert Doisneau
Rapho, Nouvelles Images

Doisneau photographed throughout the forties and fifties, capturing the essence of anything his lens should come across. Paris lends itself to such visual celebration, with its romantic streets scattered with shuttered windows, lamp- posts and cobbles; here, however, Doisneau captures the spirit of place through a passing and fleeting detail, capturing the atmosphere, the breathing life and attitude of the city. Large and comical knickers dance in the wind; ballooning upward, they reach for the skies, held only by their wooden pegs that regiment them strictly to a line. They are a pattern of pants; playful in the way they stretch across the foreground, ridiculous in their number but practical, plausible, as we glimpse the boat from which they hang, beneath them. Of course the Eiffel Tower in the background encourages the romanticism, making clear that we’re in Paris – as well as providing something, a beacon in the distance, for this flying underwear to reach to. The tower, however, is a blur; it is a subtle reminder only, as the pants are the protagonists in this image. It is a photograph that is triumphant in its composition, rather than the drama of light that is possible in black and white photography; this is where the humour lies. Light pushes through only at the end of the washing line, making the translucence of fabric glow, and providing that sense of happy freedom that only bright sunlight can.

 

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