Brassaï: Paris Nocturne
Sylvie Aubenas and Quentin Bajac
Brassaï (1899–1984) was the first and is still the most famous photographer to chronicle Paris after dark. Born in Hungary, he came to the French capital in 1924, working first as a journalist and then embracing photography, but it was the Paris of the 1930s that came to form the bedrock of his body of work. Walking the city streets at night, Brassaï discovered a previously unseen world and captured it on camera. He shows us every face and every facet, from tough guys and showgirls to prostitutes and pleasure-seekers, from the bustling cafés and dance halls to the stillness of deserted streets and mist-shrouded monuments. Through his eyes, Paris becomes a world of shadows, in which light, the prerequisite for any photograph, is reduced to dimly lit windows, streetlamps in the fog, or reflections on a rain-soaked pavement. Although firmly rooted in its time and place, Brassaï’s night photography is nonetheless timeless in its appeal. Full of beauty, bleakness and insight, these images assure his place among the greatest photographers of the 20th century.