A myth in question


The lovers were authentic but they were directed by the photographer. Doisneau was accused of cheating.

Photo illustration on a studio set. The blend of the "day light" and the artificial interior lighting is perfectly stable and the small room can be photographed from a comfortable distance.

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Natural setting recreated in the studio. The early morning light, haze included, does not “fear” the clock and allows all participants to spend ample time on the models' expressions.

from the series
Spread over a week, the successive shots that compose this image are a mix of meticulous calculations and spontaneous motions.
The idea, still widely accepted as true, that photography cannot exist without being associated with reality, assumes that reality is unique and common to all. Yet, even the most basic photographic act is in total contradiction with this postulate : reality surrounds us by a full 360 degrees and in uninterrupted time. Photography captures a small portion of these 360 degrees (horizontally and vertically) and within a minute fraction of that uninterrupted time. The resulting image reflects the choices that the camera operator made, consciously or not, to share his point of view, to include or leave out certain elements surrounding him and to determine the instant that illustrates best his perception of reality. The only constant in all photographic images is therefore a “representation” of its creator, photography is always and before anything else a form of self-portrait.

Once this is acknowledged, why leave the largest part of the result to luck ? Remember the attacks Robert Doisneau had to face, following the publication of his “Baiser de l'Hôtel de Ville” photograph. Yet when a photographer stages an image, his intention is not to cheat, but on the contrary, to communicate his point of view in the most accurate manner.

In that sense, studio work is the best way to achieve total control over the result. Like the writer's white page, the painter's canvas, the sculptor's block of clay or the musician's silence, the photographic studio, empty and dark, provides the photographer with the fear, the desire and the freedom that the others artists know well.

Of course, studio photography calls upon a chosen amount of reality : choice of the subject, the various elements, the lighting, the angle, the composition, the colors. But what studio photography allows, as opposed to photography on site, is the mastery of time : time exposure can be defined according to the result intended, without any other constraint. Exposures can be extended, repeated, sectioned or overlapped and duplicated exactly several times. The photographer can build the perfect image of “his” reality.

Some photographers choose to exercise fully the absolute control that studio techniques give them over their images. For commissioned work, which in most cases entails the unavoidable obligation of a result, absolute control is required by the commissioner. That is the reason why studio work is often associated with the idea that the photography produced within is too artificial, too “fabricated” and only used for commercial purposes. This is not the only option.
Once again, the photographer can make another choice. In this totally controlled environment, he can reserve some time for spontaneity, integrate a part of uncertainty (risk, providence, gamble). This possibility is more evident when other people contribute to the making of the image and specially when working with living subjects. At every step of the image making process : conception, propping, setting, shooting and possibly chemical or digital processing, the photographer can choose to listen to his intuition, his emotions, take into account the incidents and accidents that may occur and keep his freedom to have a result that differs from the one initially intended or even no result at all.
In this respect, studio work can be extremely sensual, a sensuality perceptible in the photographs produced. Once the images are completed and shown, they can, like all other self expression work, awaken the emotions of the viewers, emulate new thoughts and/or challenge their opinions.

This reality is far more essential than any other.