Brassaï, described as “the eye of Paris” by his friend Henry Miller, was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor, writer and filmmaker born in Romania (then a part of Hungary) in 1899. His name was taken from the name of his birth town, Brasso, changed from his birth name Gyula Halász when he moved to Paris in 1924. He studied art in Budapest and Berlin before moving to Paris where he worked as a journalist.
At first he showed no interest in photography but after witnessing his acquaintance Andre Kertesz using photography he experimented with it and grew to appreciate its use as a journalist and for its qualities. Brassaï is widely known for his photobook Paris de Nuit or ‘Paris After Dark’, published 1933. The iconic photographs are considered an example of early street photography as well Brassaï being one of the first photographers to often take photos at night. The collection features the dark streets of Paris at night time and the kind of people that would only emerge after dark such as prostitutes, transvestites and street cleaners. Brassaï’s photography captures a glimpse of the early 1930s post-war underworld of Paris. His photographs are dark, dimly lit from street lamps and his flashbulb. The result is highly atmospheric photographs, capturing not particularly a subject but a feeling. The photographs were rather controversial in their time because of their content.
I really like Brassaï’s work. I find the atmosphere of his photographs to be haunting but intriguing. I love the soft effects of the light amongst the darkness and the peaceful, strange quality to the streets at night. Brassaï managed to capture intimate snapshots of Paris. On walks in the dark for me there’s always a moment when you feel like the only person in the world and I feel that Brassaï perfectly captured that feeling in his work.
“My ambition has always been to show the everyday city as if we were discovering it for the first time.”