Brassaï (pseudonym of Halász Gyula, jr.) (September 9, 1899, Braşov, Romania – July 8, 1984, Èze, Alpes Maritimes, France) was one of the most famous photographers of the World.
Halász Gyula was born in Braşov (Brassó in Hungarian, his pseudonym means "from Braşov"), to a Hungarian father and an Armenian mother. At age three, his family moved to live in Paris, France for a year, while his father, a Professor of Literature, taught at the Sorbonne. As a young man, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, before joining a cavalry regiment of the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served until the end of the First World War. In 1920 Halász went to Berlin, where he worked as a journalist and studied at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1924 he moved to Paris where he would live the rest of his life. In order to learn the French language, he began teaching himself by reading the works of Marcel Proust. Living amongst the huge gathering of artists in the Montparnasse Quarter, he took a job as a journalist. He soon became friends with Henry Miller, Léon-Paul Fargue, and the poet Jacques Prévert.
Gyula Halász's job and his love of the city, whose streets he often wandered late at night, led to photography while he was tutored by the fellow Hungarian master Andre Kertesz. He later wrote that photography allowed him to seize the Paris night and the beauty of the streets and gardens, in rain and mist. As Brassaï, he captured the essence of the city in his photographs, publishing his first book of photographs in 1933 titled "Paris de nuit" ("Paris by Night"). His efforts met with great success, resulting in his being called "the eye of Paris" in an essay by his friend Henry Miller. In addition to photos of the seedier side of Paris, he also provided scenes from the life of the city's high society, its intellectuals, its ballet, and the grand operas. He photographed many of his great artist friends, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, plus many of the prominent writers of his time such as Jean Genet, Henri Michaux and others.
Brassaï was a founding member of the Rapho agency, created in Paris by Charles Rado in 1933. His photographs brought him international fame leading to a one-man show in the United States at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois, and at New York City's Museum of Modern Art.
In 1956, his film, Tant qu'il y aura des bêtes, won the "Most Original Film" award at the Cannes Film Festival and in 1974 he was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters and given the Legion d'Honeur in 1976. Two years later, in 1978, he won the first "Grand Prix National de la Photographie" in Paris. As well as a photographer, Brassaï was the author of seventeen books and numerous articles. After 1961, when he stopped taking photographs, Brassaï concentrated his considerable energy on sculpting in stone and bronze. Several tapestries were made from his designs based on his photographs of graffiti. (Via)
In photographing the hoodlums, prostitutes, transvestites, opium dens, and cheap music halls of Paris, as well as the better-known boulevards and attractions of the nocturnal city, Brassai came to know the city inside out. The exploration of the Parisian demi-monde as a massive communal subconscious was not initially a photographic endeavor, but one present in Mac Orlan's literary idea of the "social fantastic". Brassai's camera, tripod, and lighting equipment required him to be bold rather than inconspicuous if he were to show Paris in the mood of the city through its walls and deserted streets and the activities they concealed. His passion was not for the pure photographic rendition of static objects or in the split-second exposures that uncovered the interior of the moment. Rather, his aspiration was to be a kind of recording secretary to the act of living. (Via)
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