Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász) was a Hungarian photographer, sculptor,
and filmmaker who rose to international fame in France in the 20th century. He
was one of the numerous Hungarian artists who flourished in Paris beginning
between the World Wars. In the early 21st century, the discovery of more than 200
letters and hundreds of drawings and other items from the period 1940–1984 has
provided scholars with material for understanding his later life and career.
• Gyula Halász was born in Brassó, Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary ,
to an Armenian mother and a Hungarian father. He grew up speaking
Hungarian. When he was three, his family lived in Paris for a year,
while his father, a professor of French literature, taught at the
• As a young man, Gyula Halász studied painting and sculpture at the
Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. He joined a cavalry
regiment of the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served until the
end of the First World War.
• He would spend quite a bit of time wandering the streets of Paris
taking pictures of the night scene. He would take pictures of both
people and deserted streets and squares.
• He was also interested in Paris high society spending much of his
efforts photographing ballets, portraits of intellectuals and operas.
• A master of light, shadow and atmosphere, Brassai often chose to
focus on the set pieces of the City of light, creating memorable and
lyrical images of its monuments, bridges and boulevards.
Way of Capturing Photos
• He focused his small plate camera on a tripod, opened the shutter
when ready, and fired a flashbulb.
• He posed his cafe pictures, having his subject wait while an assistant
set up a reflecting screen and then held the flash powder that
explode into the light that produced softer edges than flashbulbs .
• He studied technique, and used an eccentric collection of plate
cameras, even after the 35mm Leica became the chosen camera of
photographers with similar interests.
• Brassai's first camera was Voigtlander Bergheil and later a Rolleiflex.
• He began work for Harper's Bazaar in 1937, and he supplied that
magazine with many photographic essays famous literary
personalities and artists.
• In 1962, after the death of Carmel Snow, the publisher of Harper's
Bazaar, Brassai gave up photography altogether. From then on, he
kept busy making new prints of his photographs and new additions of
his early books.
Henry Miller: The Paris Years, Arcade Publishing, 1975
Letters to My Parents, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago
Conversations with Picasso, Chicago, IL: University of
Chicago Press, 1999