Brassai’s Hidden Paris

No photos of Paris are more beloved than those of Brassaï, who was born in Transylvania as Gyula Halász. Transplanted to Montparnasse in 1926, he helped create the legend of left bank bohemia. A friend of poets like Jacques Prévert and Robert Desnos, Brassaï also worked for Picasso. When it came to Paris secrets, however, none of his friends could match him.

The capital was Brassaï’s inexhaustible subject; he captured her nights, parks, river, markets, lovers, streetwalkers, circuses, bars, workers, traffic, pensioners and children. Until March 8, Paris is paying him homage—with the magnificent show Brassaï: For the Love of Paris. It’s open every day but Sunday, totally free of charge, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Hôtel de Ville.

If anything leaps out from these lovingly captured moments, it’s the constancy of Brassaï’s curiosity. Like Charles Dickens in London, the lensman was a prolific walker. Also like Dickens, he relished the hidden life of the night. For Brassaï, a deserted corner (or a lonely statue) held just as much energy as the busiest café. Thus every shot you see seems alive—whether it captures the clients inside a maison close or an empty street after dark.

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