Because he was often late for work Robert Doisneau had to leave Renault in 1939, he was 27 years old, after 5 years as company photographer.
He shot photos of automobiles in settings to convey a rather opulent and leisurely lifestyle. Deeply rooted in the working class tradition he also took photos of assembly lines, factory canteens, worker hiring… His tender but facetious eye did not fail to capture workers lying on a pile of car tyres when crossing the iconic site of l'Île Seguin at Billancourt.
This exhibition was created at La Villette in Paris; it is one of the last series of silver gelatin prints produced under Robert Doisneau's supervision.
Assembly line 1946
Renault workers, Boulogne Billancourt 1945
Renault co-op factory canteen 1937
Renault advertisement 1935
Born in 1912 in Gentilly.
Died in 1994 in Montrouge.
The theory of carefree youth is a perfectly false notion spread by elderly people who have lost their memory. I, in fact, am quite the opposite; I have recollections of a time of great anxiety.
A feeling of being completely unusable. I had good reasons for this. After four years at a professional training school where I was taught the secrets of a technique that was completely antiquated, I found myself in a dusty workshop among a group of resigned lithographers.
Following a period zigzagging back and forward between an engraving shop and a photographic studio, with a detour in an advertising agency, I really needed to start to seriously think about earning a living.
At that stage I was proposed a deal, the thing would be possible if I gave myself up as prisoner in the Renault plants where 40,000 workers were serving their life sentence.
For five years I did an apprenticeship in industrial photography. Equipment at that time was heavy and sometimes the work seemed a little rough. My lot was not as bad as that of the workers on the assembly line. I was a kind of tolerated juggler.
Shooting photos in an industrial environment requires technical training, complete lack of vertigo, and above all respect for the working world.
When I happen to come across photos taken during that period, the smells of hot oil and exhaust gas come flooding back. And then I remember the noises that came with those images—the dull thudding sounds, the hammering, the electric crackling; the constant din was deafening.
Very rarely, too rarely, a photo shoot for some advertising poster let me evade for a few hours. The results were rather modest—a far cry from the means available in advertising photography today.
Chosen for their slim figures, some of the typists were used to pose as models. Those were the times when thrift was the order of the day in the advertising department.
© Atelier Robert Doisneau