Railway Photographer • Robert Doisneau • France • 1950s

The French photographer, Robert Doisneau, is widely known as a member of the humanist photography movement of the middle 20C. He was also a street-photographer, and is famous nowadays for his image, Le Baiser de l’hotel de ville (1950).

Doisneau was also the house photographer for the SNCF, the French railways, for about twenty years. The railways provided Doisneau with a context in which to frame his interest in the people within the structures and systems of the great railway network.

Interestingly, the SNCF commissioned the Brazilian social-documentarist photographer, Sebastiao Salgado, to photograph the railways in the 1980s and early 1990. In America Jack Deleno and O Winston Link took pictures of the people and machines of the railway. In the end, almost every great photographer has  taken pictures of the railway…

I love the contrast between the smokey blackness of the traditional railway and the technical precision of electric traction. Doisneau was there at exactly the right time to trace the end of an era and the beginning of the new…

And here is a rare picture of real passengers on a train to the Parisian suburbs. Must be the end of the day, they look exhausted.


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