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Paris de nuit

Considered by John Szarkowski as "one of the most remarkable of all photographic books," Paris de nuit captures the nocturnal "City of Light" in saturated tones of black, grey, and neon white. The photographer, Hungarian émigré Brassaï, claims no more than observing while moving amid the built environment of Paris and its denizens after dark. American-in-Paris writer Henry Miller nicknamed Brassaï "The Eye of Paris," a twentieth-century flâneur who notices what many either never see or fail to note.

Paris de nuit presents a new visual aesthetic in photography. Brassaï draws not only on his Hungarian heritage but also his four years in Germany just prior to moving to Paris in 1924. Fellow Hungarian émigré, André Kertész, is credited for reshaping Brassaï's disdainful attitude about the medium of photography. The result is the 1933 publication of a spiral-bound photo-book, comprising sixty images, a legend for the photographs, and an eight-page essay by Paul Morand, a French short-fiction writer. The work forms part of the series, "Réalités," under the direction of J. Bernier.

Brassaï's photographic work can be seen as a bridge between the visual atmosphere of German Expressionist cinema of the 1910s and 20s and the American film noir of the 1940s and 50s. Although his name and work are often linked with surrealism, Brassaï was never officially accepted by Salvador Dali. On the other hand, Brassaï counted among his closest friends Pablo Picasso. In 1932 Brassaï was hired to photograph the painter, yielding a life-long collaborative association.

For a closer look at the book, request Paris de nuit in the reading room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Back and front covers: at the Luxembourg Garden

Page 27: Boulevard de Clichy, near Gaumont Palace; Page 28: police on bicycles making their rounds at night

Page 50: "L'orgie de Régent"; Page 51: in the wings of the Folies Bergère


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