The name René Maltête is meaningless to most of us, since we don’t often look behind the camera, but he literally altered the way photography was handled, changing the game for good and all. He grew up in the 30’s and 40’s, when most pictures were taken of staid men in severe suits looking sorely unhappy as they stared into the lens of these photographic contraptions, trying not to blur the resultant images. Photos of the era were commonly staged, with little humanity. They were largely glamour shots or grim photos taken for utility. There wasn’t much personality to them, and they certainly weren’t funny. Then came the work of René.
As time progressed and more people could get access to cameras, the technology also became more mobile and less difficult to take out into the world, where life could be more aptly captured outside of staged shoots. Candid photography began to take off, and Maltête decided he wanted to show the hilarity of the human condition, so he made street photos that were odd, quirky, and often gut-busting. Meme-makers of today and those who devise “When You See It…” lists have nothing on the masterwork of this light-bending genius. So, to show the trolls how it should be done, here’s amazing, amusing street pics snapped by René Maltête.
The 7 Deadly Sins
The poster in the background is a description of lust, gluttony, wrath, envy, pride, greed, and sloth. Though it’s hard to tell which nun embodies which sin, we can all agree that the one with purse in the back is certainly greed.
Never above tweaking the nose of power, the image here satirizes the French police, who were once notoriously lazy, as seen by the fact they are holding totally still as they watch a real laborer go about his duties.
As is the case today, adorable animals were part of the photographic meme landscape even years before. “Pindo” is the name of this adorable pooch, who was owned by René and his son Robin. The sign beneath says “Beware of Dog” and is known as the first time this joke was ever made in still pictures.
Though not the most famous of his pictures, it’s perhaps the most recognizable, as it plays with light and shadow in a way that every selfie-snapper is familiar with. The young man was required to examine the barrel of this ornamental canon each day, since visitors would often throw trash into it. Though the effect would be easily accomplished in modern times, in the black and white photos of the time it required a master photographer to know this would be the amusing result.
You’d clearly have to read french to get the humor, but the shop sign originally says “Cordonnerie” which is a mender of shoes. However, when a blanket is thrown over the letters “RDO” in the middle of the word, it reads “Connerie,” which is “Bullshit” en français.
La fugue is the name of this piece, which translates loosely into “the runaway” but can also be interpreted as “the fugitive.” An appropriate appellation for this confusing picture. While we like to think it was found art, most are suspicious this was staged by Maltête to show a statue that had gone on walkabout.
In the middle distance is a political sign encouraging people to vote – a problem that existed even then. It says “You are the majority!” though it’s somewhat diluted by the audience.
For those who have never known the extreme measures that the youth of the world had to go through to find any erotic material before the proliferation of the internet, this sums it up. A group of semi-pubescent boys are lurking around a moving picture poster that is a drawing of a woman in a one-piece bathing suit. That’s kinky for the 1950’s.
Sometimes the simple, stupid jokes are the best. The sign is actually for a railroad crossing.
You can laugh in the face of danger, or…
A seamless piece of perspective, anyone who has ever owned a Peugeot would happily prefer to power it with a windmill, as then it would have the potential to run without being shoved by an army of frat brothers. Anyone unsure of what the man is doing, this is the age when you had to crank many cars by hand to get them started.
The same way some of us have to put a mirror across from ourselves at the dinner table to feel like we aren’t eating alone for the thousandth time, some Grand Masters must get awfully tired of everyone ignoring them just because they won’t shut up about the Blackmar–Diemer Gambit. Just move the horsey!
Less amusing and more proof that were he not going for laughs, Maltête would have been a cultural icon to trump Warhol’s idiotic soup cans.
To much of the outside world, the French seem rude. In fact, they are exceptionally nice to outsiders, some are just innately vicious people.
Catcalling is an unacceptable behavior for any man to engage in unless he is literally trying to attract felines. However, there’s nothing wrong with admiring the scenery, however you have to do it.
This is Robin, Maltête’s son, who is going through the exact morning ritual that every man has.
You left this world far too soon, René. You would have owned the internet.
It would be unbelievable except that mimes are living proof of how much the French adore stripes. Mimes are also living proof that they hate everything else and wish to punish it. #BabyHashtag.
This is Maltête’s wife. At least, the body is.
Yes, those are laundry clothespins placed onto electrical wires. Not everyone understood electricity in those days. Not everyone gets it now, but the ones that were this cavalier didn’t last long in the gene pool.
This is a place where criminals are locked up, yet the sign on the door reads “Open” which is something you want in a bakery; less in a place for violent offenders.
We’ve all had to do the limp of shame to the chalet. If you haven’t, you’re ski game is weak.
Mirrors will never stop being entertaining.