French Humanist Photography is a style of French photography that was popular from the mid 1940s until the late 1950s. This little branch of the art of photography is normally only known to those who deeply study art, more specifically photography, French culture, or someone who unluckily has unfortunately run into it through some obscure Literature/Culture/Artsy course.
This subject of this particular style is the average person and their everyday experiences. The shift to the focus upon the commoner came about as a result of conditions imposed by World War II and the Occupation of France. A lower birthrate in the mid 1930s followed by 600,000 deaths during the war and over 800,000 leaving the country combined with France's xenophobia to produce a fear of loosing The Frenchman. During this time members of the working class began to fill the void as heroes of the time for any involvements in the Resistance movement during the war, such as causing the German army grief via strike(s), lower productions, etc. This act of idolizing the working man lead the desires of having French pride rejuvenated via this new outlet, the common man.
Several specific different subjects emerged.
Examples of lovers focus on a man and a woman together showing their affection
towards each other; this may range from the couple sitting talking or passionately kissing while ignoring everything else. The immediate notice is of course the couple, but then the observer notices the surroundings, which may or may not be aware of the lovers. An excellent example of this is Robert Doisneau
's Le baiser de L'Hôtel de Ville
Hopefully it can still be seen here - "http://www.staleywise.com/collection/doisneau/doisneau_2_b.jpg"
The works categorized as children are simply works that, amazingly enough, have subjects that are children. Some of these focus on a single child, whether that child is at play, performing some sort task, or merely doing something distinctly childish. Once again the picture directs the onlooker's attention directly towards the intended subject only to discover the surroundings later. Whether the surroundings are of a junkyard as in Robert Doisneau's La voiture des enfants or the picture is shot at children outside, while the camera is inside as in Willy Ronis' École maternelle, rue de Ménilmontant.
Following the obvious pattern, one can easily infer of what subjects The Family has. These pictures have a large number of surroundings as well, ranging from weddings, to a family sitting around a dinner table, to a picture of a family being photographed.
Work, as expected, consists of people engaged in some sort of occupation. Some show artisans, porters, miners and so forth.
The last three categories of Clochards, Public Gatherings, and The Street sometimes run together. Clochards are essentially the homeless, beggars, or other people who live and work on the street. Most all of these pictures occur at a busy intersection or somewhere with heavy pedestrian traffic. Some examples include the accordionist from Doisneau's L'accordéoniste de la rue Mouffetard, and the tramps from his L'Amiral, roi des clochards, Germaine, sa reine et leur buffon, L'ancien clown Spinelli. Public gatherings are also often times placed outdoors on the street, such as fairs that take place on street corners, gatherings outside of a bistrot, or a parade down the street. However, there are several examples that are distinctively of their own, including many inside gatherings in restaurants, basements, and parties. The Street includes many photographs of pedestrians, empty street corners, important buildings and the sights around them, ruins of older buildings, and even housing conditions.
Humanist Photography tends to be entirely black-and-white and have two separate parts, the subject that is noticed immediately and the background which is noticed after noting the subject. They also tend to extract a kitschy response from the common folk.