Studying Brassai

Mar 1, 2010
by: CocoF

Something I have become interested in learning more about is various other topics of things to take pictures of. I started to become interested in Brassai because he took most of his photographs in Paris, which is a city I love, and the photos caught my attention. So far I have learned that he takes photos mostly of Parisian nightlife, including the things that aren't so well known. He takes phorographs of a lot of things that you wouldn't normally expect people to take photos of, things that are a lot darker and more dramatic. For example the photo below, which I found at Masters of Photography.

Brassai, Photographer, Paris, Night

This information is from Masters of Photography. This website is to promote the work of a lot of famous photographers and share information on them. The information that I've been reading is from a personal website, someone who just wanted to share the work of famous photographers, not owned by a company or organization, it's run by a man named Mark Harden.

This topic of Parisian nightlife and life in generally relates to me and my interests because although our topics are nothing alike, I am very interested in the way he takes the photographs, and I like the fact that it's all black and white. I also like that he takes pictures of things you wouldn't normally expect to see. One thing that surprised me was that he was given the title of "the eye of Paris" after his book of photographs, Paris By Night was published. One thing that I wonder about this person's work and life is why he takes pictures of the things he does, and what inspires him.

Brassai was involved during the 1930's in Paris, his main work was done around that time and they were pretty much all in Paris. During this time Paris was full of high society and a lot of wealthy people, which he took some photographs of. However, he also took photos of the seedier, darker side of the city that was very prominent at that time, such as the prostitues, like in the picture I posted.

Being that I didn't have a lot of background information on Brassai, I chose to do some more research. As I searched for another source of information about this person, I came across this additional article titled 'Brassai (1899-1984)' on This article provided a lot of information and opinions on Brassai.

A quote from the article-"Brassai sees Paris as a subject of infinite grandeur, his photographs providing a sensitive and often extremely dramatic exploration of its people, its resplendent avenues, and endlessly intriguing byways". This statement didn't really surprise me all that much, but it did make me feel like I understood just what types of subject he takes photographs of and what makes him so interesting. His photographs were very dramatic, I think this was helped by the fact that the photographs were all black and white, it helped make a statement. At the same time, however, they are sensitive and soft.

In the article, 'Brassai (1899-1984) at Photo Seminars, there was a statement that made me nod my head in agreement with the writer. It was: '"When you meet the man you see at once that he is equipped with no ordinary eyes," comments writer Henry Miller on French photographer Brassai. And the sharpness of vision and depth of insight noted by Miller are revealed in Brassai’s lifelong photographic exploration of Paris—its people, places, and things.' This is so true because from looking at his photos I can tell that he seems to have an eye for taking compelling and interesting photos, and can, out of the hundreds of thousands of possible subjects, choose the few that end up making really nice photographs.

Now that I have done this research, it makes me think more about my own work, particularly ones that I've done more recently. All of this makes me think about how I will make my photographs more interesting so that the eye is drawn to them. I actually like the idea of taking the photos in black and white, like Brassai did. I think having the photographs in black and white makes them much more dramatic, as opposed to if the photos had been taken in color. No matter what he takes photos of, whether or not they're the landmarks of France or the seedier side of the city, he manages to always make him photos interesting and compelling. Looking at one of my photos, taken from Flickr.

Photograph, Shoe, Converse


I like the fact that the photo is so bright and it sort of works well in this picture, but after looking through Brassai's photos it makes me wonder what the photo would look like if it was entirely black and white. Maybe it wouldn't work for this particular photo, but it would definitely change the overall feel of it.

Next, with my own work, I hope to use some of the ideas I've learned from studying Brassai to help make my photos more interesting. I will try the idea of making my photos black and white and see what happens. I also want to take things that are a bit more interesting and also things that you wouldn't think to take photos of. I hope to take photos of interesting things and things you wouldn't always think to take them of.