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Paris City Hall hosts an exhibition of the intense, luminous works of artist Brassaï
People watch photographs of Brassai during the exhibition titled "Brassai, pour l'amour de Paris" ("Brassai, for the love of Paris") at the Hotel de Ville of Paris. AFP PHOTO THOMAS SAMSON.

PARIS.- Paris City Hall hosts an exhibition of one of the greatest of all contemporary photographers: the intense, luminous works of Brassaï, born in Hungary and endlessly fascinated by the French capital. Free of charge.

The "Brassai, for the Love of Paris" exhibition recounts the extraordinary story of one man’s passion: that which united Brassaï with the nooks and crannies of the French capital, but also with intellectuals, artists, large families and prostitutes – all those who have made Paris the mythical place it is.

Brassaï, the photographer from Transylvania
Born in 1899 in Brasso (now Brasov) in Transylvania, Gyulus Halasz adopted the name Brassaï when he started to take photos in 1929. His fascination for Paris brought him to the French capital in 1924, after completing his art studies in Berlin. He soon met Desnos and Prévert, who let him into the crowd of brilliant artists and intellectuals who were at the origin of the Années Folles at Montparnasse, and introduced him to the world of the Surrealists.

He felt compelled to transform the real into the unreal. He sought out the most ordinary objects and changed their meaning, dared to create offbeat juxtapositions, and played with perception by taking the everyday out of its normal context.

Golden Twenties and nocturnal prowls
Brassaï used the night-time light of the city to showcase an offbeat, little-known, sometimes despised side of Paris.

In his wanderings, either alone or in the company of Henry Miller, Blaise Cendrars or Jacques Prévert, he gave visible form to the humble prostitutes in the “murky” districts and to the night workers at Les Halles. He transformed the classical rigour of Paris architecture into strange scenes and captured the unusual beauty of fleeting silhouettes, blinding lights and fog hanging over the River Seine.

Surrealist friendships
In 1932, Picasso took an interest in his work and asked Brassaï to photograph his sculptures, which at the time were unknown and were to be published in the first issue of a new art journal: Le Minotaure. The two artists discovered that they shared certain tastes and fascinations, such as the skimpily clothed atmosphere of the Folies Bergères and the ambience of funfairs. Among all the attractions on offer at the time, the type that they were most interested in was the circus. There they found the beauty of the human body subjected to the virtuosity of physical effort, a dialogue between man and animal, the sense of delicate balance, and a taste for the mysterious.

Paris, Belle de Jour
A tireless wanderer of night-time Paris, Brassaï also had an eye for the capital in daylight. For example, he offered an intensely personal view of the Jardin du Luxembourg and the banks of the Seine, which he strolled along in search of young lovers, fishermen, the homeless, or even dogs. He also took a keen interest in the elegant Rue de Rivoli crowd, bystanders in front of shops on the Grands Boulevards, and many others

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November 11, 2013

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