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Robert Doisneau, who would have been 100 today, is the subject of the latest Google doodle. (Google )

Robert Doisneau: The story behind his famous 'Kiss'

By / 04.14.12

French photographer Robert Doisneau, who is being feted with a Google Doodle Monday, is renowned for his work depicting everyday moments in the life of Parisians. One of his most famous photos, “Le baiser de l'hôtel de ville (The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville),” a picture of a couple kissing that has graced thousands of postcards and posters, seems to be the epitome of his spontaneous style.

However, after it became a classic photo – forever associated with Paris and romance – it provoked lawsuits, including one that cast the photo’s serendipity in a new light.

The photo was taken by Doisneau in 1950 for Life Magazine after Doisneau was instructed to get shots of couples in Paris for a spread. Its popularity erupted years later, when a publisher asked Doisneau in 1986 if he could use the photo for a poster and Doisneau allowed it.

At least one couple incorrectly believed themselves to be the two seen embracing in Doisneau’s photo. Jean and Denise Lavergne told him so over lunch one day. At the time, Doisneau said nothing to disprove their statement. Still believing themselves to be the couple, the Lavergnes sued Doisneau for more than $18,000, claiming that he had used their likenesses without permission. A second suit came around the same time from a woman named Françoise Delbart (who now goes by her married name of Françoise Bornet). She sued the photographer in 1993 for a share of future sales and an additional $3,773. 

Because of the two lawsuits, Doisneau revealed that the picture had in fact been staged after he had seen Ms. Bornet and Jacques Carteaud kissing and asked them if they could do it again for a photo. Doisneau then photographed Bornet and Carteau, both hopeful actors, in three different locations, which included the final location of near the Hôtel de Ville. After they posed, Doisneau gave Bornet a print of the photo with his stamp and signature.

Courts dismissed the claims of both the Lavergnes and Bornet in 1993, saying that the photo couldn’t be used to positively identify anyone in it.

Bornet auctioned her print of the photo in 2005, where it was sold for the equivalent of $242,000.

“The photo was posed,” Bornet said in an interview with French media. “But the kiss was real.”

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Robert Doisneau, who would have been 100 today, is the subject of the latest Google doodle. (Google )

Robert Doisneau, an artist of the Parisian streets, honored today by Google

By Matthew Shaer / 04.14.12

The Google doodle Saturday depicts a quartet of photographs by the French artist Robert Doisneau, including his most famous work, "Kiss by the Hotel de Ville," which was snapped in 1950. So who was Robert Doisneau, exactly?

Only one of the most recognizable stylists in the annals of modern photography – a Paris-born flâneur who wandered the streets of his home city with his trademark Leica in hand, collecting images of the local street life. 

Doisneau, who would have been 100 today, grew up in a suburb of Paris, the son of a plumber. When his parents passed away, Doisneau went to live with an aunt. He studied lithography, but preferred the camera, and at the age of 20, he sold his first photo essay to a local magazine called Excelsior.

Through the '30s, he did work for Renault, the French auto giant; when he was fired (apparently for being chronically late), he struck out on his own. During World War II, he was conscripted in the army, and later helped forge passports for the Resistance. In the 1940s and 1950s, he settled in the perambulatory rhythm that yielded iconic images like the ones above. 

"Doisneau was fascinated by the Parisians who lived and worked around him," reads one 1991 Doisneau obituary. "He pictured them in their own inimitable cityscape, constructing a narrative which paid homage to the ordinary. Through Doisneau's eyes, Paris became a magic circus of occasion and event: an impromptu game of football becomes a decorous exercise in acrobatics, a fallen horse in the road the centre of an accidental carnival." 

Of course, it is "Kiss by the Hotel De Ville" that remains forever linked to Doisneau – an image of two lip-locked lovers that appears to have been captured candidly. (In the background, commuters swing through the afternoon light.) But the photo was not serendipitous. Toward the end of his life, Doisneau admitted that the photo was posed, and that two "lovers" were actually models. 

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A new Apple rumor puts a 'revolutionary' device hitting the shelves at the end of the year. (Reuters)

'Revolutionary' Apple device arriving this year, says French designer

By Matthew Shaer / 04.13.12

Usually tech rumors – and especially Apple rumors – are shadowy things, sourced to anonymous insiders or employees of factories in China or Taiwan. Well, hey, this is a nice change of pace: Philippe Starck, the famed French designer, has told a Parisian newspaper that he is helping Apple design a "revolutionary" product, which will hit shelves in approximately eight months. In other words, Starck is both the progenitor and the subject of the rumor. 

What Starck actually said – courtesy of our high school French classes and an assist from Google Translate – is this: "In effect, there is a big project that we're working on together." Starck, invoking Apple's famed "culte du secret religieux" – cult of religious secrecy – declined to comment further. And Apple is staying mum. So is this for real? 

Maybe. It does seem extremely unlikely that a highly-regarded public figure would go dashing around dispensing completely false pieces of information. (Starck has in the past designed the interior of Eurostar trains, Parisian restaurants, and the apartments of French politicians. Once he even built a wicked cool toothbrush.) Let's say Starck is partnering up with Apple. 

And let's look at the time frame he gave his interviewer: 8 months. That would put us towards the end of 2012, which would be prime time for a new Apple iPhone. (Although the last iPhone launched in the fall, so the successor is probably due in about 6 or 7 months, rather than 8.) On the other hand, as others have pointed out, it could just be a remote control for the (presumably forthcoming) Apple TV

We'll let you know as soon as we know more. 

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An Apple retail store in Carlsbad, California. (Reuters)

What the e-book scandal means for Apple

By Matthew Shaer / 04.12.12

Yesterday, the Department of Justice filed a complaint in US District Court against Apple and five major publishers. The DOJ says Apple and the publishers conspired to raise the prices of e-books by as much as $5 – a move allegedly intended to prevent Amazon from locking in the price of e-books at 10 bucks. Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster agreed immediately to settle. Penguin, MacMillan and Apple will likely fight on. 

So hey, what does this mean for Apple? (We should make clear here that Apple has not officially signaled its strategy vis-a-vis the DOJ, but until we know otherwise, we're assuming that Apple – like Penguin and MacMillan – has no intention of backing down.) 

Well, for one, it could bruise Apple.

"Apple does hurt itself when it thumbs its nose at the courts, the American system, and that could hurt it," Jeffrey Durgee, a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, told US News and World Reports this week. Apple's "brand personality," he added is that of "a maverick, but not outside the law." 

On the other hand, even if the baseline price of an e-book does return to $10 – which is exactly where Amazon wants it, while publishers want a higher price – Apple might not actually sustain any real damage. Writing for The New York Times, Nick Wingfield argued that it was "doubtful" that Apple would try to meet Amazon at the $9.99 price point. 

"That, in turn, would hurt Apple e-book sales but do very little direct damage to Apple’s overall business," Wingfield added. "In the holiday quarter, Apple reported $2 billion in revenue from Internet services – about 4 percent of total company sales – with an undisclosed, but most likely small, percentage of that coming from e-book sales." 

But more than that, Geoffrey Manne, an antitrust scholar at the Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon, told CNET, "it's a harder case against Apple than the publishers."

That's partly because Apple reps were not present at the various London and Manhattan gatherings where the collusion allegedly took place. 

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Say hello to the SmartWatch, the new Android watch from Sony. (Sony)

Sony SmartWatch: The littlest Android device

By Matthew Shaer / 04.12.12

Sony today took the wraps off the SmartWatch, a touchscreen timepiece powered by Android.

The device, which will set you back $149, works by establishing a connection with any device – tablet or smartphone – running Android 2.1 or higher. In other words, you can't strap the thing on your wrist and start flicking through a bunch of apps. You need to tether it via Bluetooth first (and also download the requisite app for the tablet or smartphone). 

Which, let's face it, is something of a let-down. 

On the plus side, the SmartWatch is plenty handsome. And sleek. (See video below.) According to specs posted on the Sony Mobile site, the device – available now – weighs less than a tenth of a pound, with a 1.42-inch screen. Sony puts the tethering range at 32 feet – anything over that, and you'd start to lose the connection. 

So what exactly are you meant to do with the SmartWatch? Well, you could check your email or your Twitter feed. You could browse Google News. Or download custom apps from Google Play. 

Over at TechCrunch, Chris Velazco thinks Sony could have a shot with this thing. The company "definitely seems to be gunning for the masses with the SmartWatch’s relatively inexpensive price tag and its slew of eye-catching wristbands ($20 each, in case you were curious), and it’s definitely worth a second look if you feel like the hassle of digging your phone out of your pocket is just too [much] of a hassle," he writes. 

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Apple and five major publishers are under fire from the Department of Justice. Here, a man holds an Apple iPad. (Reuters)

Apple, five major publishers accused of e-book collusion by DOJ

By Matthew Shaer / 04.12.12

On Wednesday morning, the Department of Justice filed a complaint in US District Court against Apple and five publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. The allegation: That Apple and the publishers conspired to raise the prices of e-books by as much as $5, in an effort to prevent Amazon, which prices many of its e-books at 10 bucks, from locking in what publishers believe is an artificially low price. 

"In recent years, we have seen the rapid growth – and the many benefits – of electronic books," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a press conference. "E-books are transforming our daily lives, and improving how information and content is shared. For the growing number of Americans who want to take advantage of this new technology, the Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that e-books are as affordable as possible."

Holder told reporters that three of the publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster – had agreed to a settlement. Apple, Penguin, and MacMillan, on the other hand, will likely fight back in court. "Macmillan did not act illegally. Macmillan did not collude," Macmillan CEO John Sargent told authors, illustrators, and agents in a recent letter, according to the Associated Press

The terms of the settlement, Holder said, required "the companies to terminate their anticompetitive most-favored-nation agreements with Apple and other e-books retailers."

Meanwhile, the attorneys general of 15 states are bringing their own complaints against Apple and the five publishers. The AP has reported that in Connecticut and Texas, Hachette and Harper Collins have agreed to pay $52 million in restitution to consumers, "using a formula based on the number of states participating and the number of e-books sold in each state." 

A surprising development, obviously. And not everyone is pleased. In an editorial today, the Los Angeles Times argues that the deals that are currently under fire helped foster competition in the e-book marketplace. 

"Amazon still has the lion's share of the e-book market, but new outlets are gaining traction," reads the editorial. "Meanwhile, the Kindle is no longer the presumptive king of the ebook readers, thanks to Apple's popular iPad and Barnes & Noble's Nook. These changes are good for consumers, which leads critics of the Justice Department to ask why it's scrutinizing the contracts that caused them."

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Google Chrome tabs are now portable. Here, the Google logo is displayed on a screen at Google HQ. (Reuters)

Google Chrome browser tabs get a ticket to ride

By Matthew Shaer / 04.11.12

The scenario goes something like this: You've opened up approximately 734 tabs on your browser. You're looking at a news site, and at directions to the nearest cinema, and also a website that features photographs of cats – hypnotic, all-consuming pictures of cats. So all-consuming that you're half a mile away from your computer by the time you realize you forgot to write down the correct movie times. 

Tab-lovers with low-attention spans, take heed: Google has the solution for you. This week, the company took the wraps off a new functionality for its Chrome browser, which allows you to access active tabs remotely, via another computer or on your smartphone. To fire up the feature, Google engineers Nicolas Zea and Patrick Dubroy wrote this week, navigate over to the "other devices" menu on the New Tab page. 

"With a click, you can find and open the tab with your directions and be on your way," Dubroy and Zea added. "The tab’s back and forward navigation history is also included, so you can pick up browsing right where you left off. If you use Chrome for Android Beta, the tab will also be available on your phone, right there in your pocket when you hit the road."

Google will roll out the functionality gradually over the next couple weeks. In the early-going, you'll need to have the latest version of Chrome Beta or Chrome for Android Beta, which are available here and here, respectively. 

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Instagram, seen here on an Android phone, has proved extremely popular among users of the Google mobile platform. (Reuters)

Instagram gives Facebook 5 million reasons to love recent acquisition

By Matthew Shaer / 04.11.12

Earlier this week, Facebook announced the acquisition of photo-sharing hub Instagram. The price tag? A reported $1 billion in stock options and cash, a hefty chunk of change even for a company that could soon be valued at $100 billion.

In a message to users, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg maintained that although Facebook and Instagram offered very "different experiences, that the two platforms would "complement each other." 

"This is an important milestone for Facebook because it's the first time we've ever acquired a product and company with so many users," Zuckerberg wrote. "We don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together." 

Plenty of analysts thought Team Facebook was nuts. (The deal, wrote one, "was an indication that Facebook does not have what it takes to stay in business.") 

But today comes news that Facebook may have been prescient in gobbling up Instagram. According to VentureBeat, the new Instagram Android application tallied up a million downloads in the first 24 hours it was available. And it wasn't just a quick burst of interest, either – over six days, downloads of the Android app topped five million. "Insta-growth," VentureBeat called it. (30 million users already reportedly access Instagram through Apple's iOS.) 

The question now is whether Instagram can continue to thrive under Facebook control, points out Mike Isaac of Wired. 

"Upon any relatively small startup being absorbed by a larger company, there’s almost always change in structure, workflow and even long-term product goals," Isaac writes. "While both Mark Zuckerberg and Burbn CEO Kevin Systrom both promised that Instagram would continue as the standalone brand and product it is now, it’s difficult to imagine that the social giant’s influence won’t affect Instagram’s evolution at all."

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The man behind Monday's Google doodle, Eadweard J. Muybridge, was born Edward James Muggeridge. But he took a long route from his birth-name to the one on his gravestone. (Google)

How Edward Muggeridge became Eadweard J. Muybridge

By / 04.09.12

Eadweard J. Muybridge revolutionized photography, cinematography, and possibly even zoology. In his Google doodle on Monday, the search engine harkens back to his most famous work: a series of shots that capture the full gallop of a horse. Muybridge proved that, for a brief moment, all four of a horse's legs leave the ground.

The Monitor has dug into his breakthrough Zoopraxiscope and how Muybridge got away with murder. But there's another interesting aspect to Muybridge, one that makes him seem more like a fictional character than a real person. Muybridge constantly reinvented himself, adopting at least five different names.

The man that died as Eadweard J. Muybridge grew up in England as Edward James Muggeridge. His transformation took many steps.

Upon moving to California, the British photographer settled on a name that matched the Spanish influence of his surroundings: Eduardo Santiago. Both are direct translations of Edward and James. (The Catholic St. James is called St. Santiago in Spanish.)

He later changed his last name from Muggridge to Muygridge and eventually landed on Muybridge.

But about how Eadweard? It's pronounced the same way as Edward. So why the change?

His hometown of Kingston upon Thames has a "famous monument, a stone upon which seven Saxon kings were crowned," writes Paul Hill in his book "Eadweard Muybridge." The monument "had been inaugurated in 1850 and on its [base] was inscribed the name of each king. He took for himself the spelling of one of these names – Eadweard."

Nowadays, we call King Eadweard simply King Edward.

Muybridge even adopted the pseudonym Helios, the Greek sun god – perhaps a reference to the sun's role in photography. He gave that name to his son, Floredo Helios Muybridge.

While his transformations are peculiar – explained away by some as part of his generally volatile disposition (he did shot a man dead, after all) – his choices of names are equally odd. For a man on the cutting edge of film technology, he picked curiously antiquated names. Did he want the gravitas of an ancient moniker? Did his artistic flair manifest itself in bizarre spellings?

In any case, he may have been more literal than even he anticipated when he wrote in 1852 that, “I am going to make a name for myself. If I fail, you will never hear of me again."

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Eadweard J. Muybridge was on trial for murder before he shot his famous reel of a horse galloping – which Google used for Monday's Google doodle. (Google)

Did Eadweard J. Muybridge get away with murder? (+video)

By Megan Riesz / 04.09.12

Photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge is renowned for his frame-by-frame snapshots of a galloping horse, celebrated on Monday with a special Google doodle in his honor. The famous reel, taken in the late 1870s, proved that at the height of a horse’s gallop, all four of its legs are in the air. But Muybridge had an entirely different reputation in 1874 – that of a cold-blooded killer.
 
Muybridge married the 21-year-old Flora Stone in 1872. They had a baby boy, Floredo Helios Muybridge, two years later. But Muybridge thought Floredo might not have been his son. He discovered a series of letters between his wife and drama critic Major Harry Larkyns, according to Stanford Magazine. She even sent a picture of Floredo to Larkyns with the caption “Little Harry.”

 
Muybridge decided to take matters into his own hands. He shot Larkyns through the heart. When Muybridge was put on trial in 1875, he pleaded insanity, but then changed his defense to “justifiable homicide,” or killing without bad intent.

This argument most likely wouldn’t have held up in US court today, but murder laws were much more subjective in the 19th century California. Thus, the jury let him go.
 
Three years later, Muybridge’s photos were ready to show the world, and the genius of his work clouded his past transgressions.
 
Arthur Shimamura, a psychologist at the University of California ­­­– Berkley, told Stanford Magazine that the photographer was well known for his “risky deeds and emotional explosions.” Muybridge changed his name multiple times from his original name, Edward James Muggeridge, further suggesting that he was unstable.
 
Muybridge certainly had an impact on the photography, video, even equestrian industries, but the details of his personal life prove he was also a man who got away with murder. Under modern law, he would have been thrown in jail – perhaps barring him from his subsequent innovations.

How different history might have been.

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[Editor's note: The original version of this piece misidentified Major Harry Larkyns' profession. He was a drama critic.]

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