Born Gyula Halász, the celebrated Hungarian photographer known popularly as Brassaï captured the celebrated avenues of Paris along with the prostitutes, opium dens, and cheap music halls reflected in his masterful night photography. He rose to international fame in the twentieth century.
His mission was to be a sort of “recording secretary to the act of living.” After studying art (he was also a sculptor and filmmaker) in Budapest and Berlin, he came to Paris in the mid 1920s. Interestingly, he was completely disinterested in photography until he observed the photographs of an acquaintance of his, Andre Kertesz. It was then that Brassaï began taking his camera and tripod out to record the nightlife of Paris in an almost merciless starkness, at times.
When Brassaï’s Paris de Nuit was published, the great photographer and theorist Dr. Peter Henry Emerson, then approaching eighty, wrote Brassaï in care of his publisher, asking Brassaï to please send his proper address, so that Emerson could send him the medal that he had awarded him for his splendid book. It is an interesting comment on the chaotic incoherence of photographic history that Brassaï had never heard of Emerson.
Brassaï died in France, in 1984 at the age of 84.