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Brassai: Paris by Night

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Brassai was probably more responsible than most for generating the noir genre associated with Paris but that, I think, was a function of his equipment. I no longer have the book as, during a house move many years ago, about half of my book collection and several items of photo equipment were lost. By the end of his life, he’d published 17 books and even produced one film, Tant qu’il y aura des bêtes ( As long as there are beasts), which was released in 1955 and won a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival. One of the most important and influential photographers of the twentieth century, Brassai (1899-1984) moved to Paris from Hungary in 1924.

Slowly my eyes become acclimatized to the night setting and I start to wonder about the people being photographed: I wonder about the photo of a lone prostitute standing at a corner, the light of an out of sight window or gas lamp casting her long shadow onto the sidewalk.

He was roaming a lot of the streets in the evenings, trying to really understand the communities, the activities that were taking place at night,” says Linde B. One should think of it as amongst the best produced and influential photobooks ever” ( The Photobook, Vol. Paris by Night" is a stunning portrait of nighttime in the City of Light, as captured by its most articulate observer.

While Brassaï (1899–1984) was a veritable polymath—he wrote novels, sculpted, and painted throughout his career—his pictures of Paris at night remain his career-defining masterworks. The images are matte and not particularly contrasty, and I don't think they are shown to their full advantage. tall x 10-5/8"; black cover; lamination is lifting from cover; crease along top 6" front cover and light corresponding creases to first 2 pp; ca. First American Edition (1987) of a book originally published in France by Arts et Metiers Graphiques in 1933.Brass's ability to capture the mysticism of 'Paris by Night' instills a romance and love of fi noir for all. First published in 1933, Paris By Night, of which I own the fine reissue by Flammarion (2011), feels like more than a book: it is a steppingstone in photography, and offers a look into the Paris night, as a world complete in itself, with its own story, its own characters. A beautiful new edition of Brassaï’s classic book of urban photography, Paris by Night, shows both the bright and dark sides of Paris as seen through the eyes of a talented young artist who fell under the city’s spell. Organized by Fundación MAPFRE and former MoMA curator Peter Galassi, the show, entitled “Brassaï,” opened in Spain earlier this year and landed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) this month.

There is plenty of atmosphere in the pictures and I particularly like the one of two policemen having a quiet cigarette out side their station.Lights from cars, windows, hotel signs, snowy grounds, and watery reflections enhance the sense of drama in his dreamy nocturnal shots. At that hour a twilight world comes into being, a world of shifting forms, of false perspectives, phantom planes. This book may not have all of Brassai's best works, but it is the most successful collection that I have seen in capturing the spirit of Brassai's photography.

There, in 1932, he changed his given name, Gyula Halász, to a doctored version of his hometown’s name—his roots as a foreigner remained crucial to his vision and identity. I particularly like the quotation from Brassai himself at the beginning – I often feel that nothing is more surreal than reality (especially in these interesting times) and it is always comforting to know that others both now and in the past have felt the same. Their nocturnal surroundings fascinated the artist, whose photographs are as much an exploration of the technical challenge of portraying darkness as portraits of a hauntingly dramatic night world. I have included shortened (ellipsis) versions of the comments to them, which exists in the comments section of the book. Paris by Night, first published in 1933, features sixty-two of these poetic images, and has become an acknowledged classic of urban photography.A Monastic Brothel, Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, 1931In his quest to cover every facet of Paris, Brassaï also immersed himself in the city’s darker side.

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