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The Parisian blackness of Brassaï

When it comes to Brassaï, the first thing that comes to my mind is Paris. Being one of the most prolific photographers ever, Brassaï captured the Parisian nightlife as no other. The prostitutes, the bad guys, the glamorous couples, the bourgeois chic atmosphere, the drunk people, the thugs, the brothels, the lovers, the decadence and vices, a “social study of Paris underground”, or as he mentioned, “he was interested in what was happening at night behind the walls”.

Brassaï, Paris, 1983, photo by Michael Somoroff

Gyula Halasz, or Brassaï, was a Hungarian-French artist, born in 1899, Brasov (now Romania). For over 50 years with a camera in his hands, Brassaï was also a sculptor, writer and movie maker. Whenever comes to my influence, Brassaï is one of my favorites whose work I study constantly. My Silhouette Series and my noir night shots have much of him on it.

What can we learn from him? How his work influences my work?

First of all, a great deal of his photography, as mentioned here, was the Parisian night. So if this is the first time you are having contact with my work, check my Paris galleries and Silhouette. And if you know a bit of my work already, understand how Brassaï works with me.

The Voracious Look

Brassaï used to have a vision that devour things and people. His sharp look to see everything, was never ending source of a multi task artist. Being myself the most curious person I’ve known, I take that lesson as promising as ever. Maybe that most silly moment at that corner, late night, will be transformed into a unique shot hanging in someone's wall, or in a series book, or maybe in the next exhibition in Tokyo. Who knows? The thing is, we never know. Keep your eyes and curiosity as open as possible.

The Nocturnal World

Passionate by the night, Brassaï was always hanging into Parisian streets, brothels, cafes, restaurants, ateliers. It’s in December 1932 that he first published his book Paris de Nuit (Paris by Night). As for me, since I know myself as a person, I love the night. My day is the night. And my night is my nirvana. Because for me at night, anything goes. My artistic freedom becomes even more realistic and surrealistic. At night I wonder into alleys, narrow streets, frozen corners, rainy abysses. It is at night that any type of human activity goes on. Whether related to business or the pursuit of pleasure. It's very interesting for me to see at night people who go out for a stroll, people who are searching off a good time drawn by the pleasures of the night. It is at night that I find the most interesting silhouettes. The strangest situations bounded to the most beautiful light. It is at night that I feel more alive, the time where I think the world itself becomes more intriguing. The night makes me even more eager for my photography shots. All that is forbidden during the day, is allowed at night as if there is no tomorrow. Brassaï knew it very well.


Cities always make a deep impression on me. It can be Rome, Budapest, NY, Berlin or Moscow. Can be beautiful or ugly. Old or new. Does not matter. I love the buzz of the urban world. The pulsating rhythm of the night. The energy that provides a contrasting metaphor of life. But one thing that can never be missed, is the composition. For Brassaï the theme and composition were as important as the formal structure. It is not only about pure aesthetics. It’s about not bringing to you a confused image. Something that 5 min later you will not even remember. Eliminate everything that does not matter on your photography. I use to say that, as simpler the image, the more power it has. That is one of the reasons black and white remains as one of my favorite tools. Colors are simply distraction. The blackness of each scene, the precision composition of each photograph is what impresses me the most in Brassaï’s work.

Ordinary Life

One of Brassaï’s best lessons I can recommend is never to attain only one single theme. This is something that I carry within me. Yes of course, I have my preferences, cold rainy nights, urban atmosphere, black and white. But of course, you will find in my work textures series, water, nature, some color galleries (I’m very fond of Blue). But if you dig my website a little bit, you will be able to see that even if I photograph a few themes that are not the ones I am most into, it’s very likable that you can recognize my signature in all my work. Everything that is out there is part of my work and life. Streets, other cultures, sunsets, dark nights, winter, languages, mysteries, dreams, strangers.


One of the things that I love the most in my photography is that I have freedom. Freedom to photograph whatever I want. And one of the things that I love the most while I am traveling or even in my city that is São Paulo, is to go out at night and to photograph the life out there. To be able to photograph whatever you want is a luxury. I know very few people that love being alone and wonder like a proper flâneur, but for me, the moro solo is my journey, the more I love. For me, the most anonymous places, the most mysterious, the most dark, are the ones I will love the most. You can capture that in all of my work, mainly in the biggest cities, such as Berlin, Moscow, SP, Budapest, Dublin, Bucharest, London, etc.

"I was on a quest for the poetry of the fog that transform things, the poetry of the night that transforms the city, the poetry of time that transform all creatures." Brassaï

Highly recommended readings:

All photographs are © Estate Brassaï

If you are here, thank you so much for reading!!!


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