Doisneau & Gentilly

Robert Doisneau was born April 14th 1912 in Gentilly, just outside the southern boundary of Paris, and already tributes are coming on-line to the man who produced so many pictures full of humour, human warmth and sometimes pathos. La Lettre de la Photographie has 47 unpublished images found in the archive of Rapho Photo Agency (now Gamma Rapho) and Le Figaro shows ten of the best.

For an overview of his life and work the Atelier Robert Doisneau is online and easy to navigate even if you don’t read French. A few years ago I visited the actual Atelier in Mountrouge, a short walk from Gentilly in the building where Doisneau lived and worked for more than 50 years until his death in 1994.

My picture is of the centre of Gentilly, and was taken on a very pocketable compact camera, the Canon Digital Ixus 400, in 2004. This was a 3.87Mp camera with a tendency to get round to taking the picture around a second or two after I had pressed the release and too often after I’d assumed it had already done the job and was putting it back in my pocket, but the basic quality of this image, taken at 1/500 f2.8 ISO50, was pretty good, though I had not had it very long and hadn’t then managed to tone down its default over-sharpening.

I’ve found it’s worth processing these images in Lightroom 4, which has enabled me to bring out a little more tone in the sky, slightly adjust the colour temperature to give a cleaner looking result and perhaps most importantly remove some of the fringing and most of the mild chromatic aberration. The final image is really a remarkable result from a sensor that is less than 1/20 the area of a 35mm negative. Although the image is only 2272×1604 pixels it would really make a pretty respectable A4 print, and at say 7×5 inches on a book page would be difficult to tell from one taken with a much larger camera. It’s only when I make a large print from one of the files from this camera that I remember why it’s worth carrying a camera about ten times the size and weight.

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