George Brassai

Throughout my course I have been trying to cover the world’s most influential photographers, and George Brassai is definitely one that keeps appearing during my study and research. He was a Hungarian photographer, who rose to fame in France; and specifically Paris. In his photography you can really see Brassai’s love for the city of Paris. He writes that he used photography “in order to capture the beauty of streets and gardens in the rain and fog, and to capture Paris by night.(1)”

His photographs of Paris brought him international fame, and it’s easy to see why. The breakthrough in night-time photography; which many other photographers would avoid, was to be admired. “He found his profession while wandering through Paris after dark. He sucked the streets into his camera, then rushed home with his haul before dawn. He was a creature of the night . . .” Capturing portraits in low light such as night-time and indoors is something I have difficulty with- so studying this talented photographer’s images is both helpful and encouraging that it can be done, and it can be done extremely well.

“Brassai was fascinated with how society amused itself at night-time. He loved to photograph the interesting characters that came out at night and the scenes that nighttime seems to create.(2)” Brassai captured candid shots of people going about their everyday life. This is also something I greatly admire and strive to achieve myself. Capturing people completely naturally is my favourite form of photography. There is nothing better than that loving glance between a young couple, or that wide smile from a child to their mother- these are the real, true moments that I strive to capture. I’m not always successful, but this is what I hope to one day be able to achieve naturally and effectively. I do think a big part of the success in candid photography, is gaining the experience to relax clients, and make them completely at ease around you and the camera. This comes with experience and confidence in what you’re doing- which is something that will take me another couple of years to fully gain.

Taking candid pictures had it’s own dangers for Brassai; “One day in 1944 he leaned out of his window to take a picture of the troops come to liberate Paris. He was mistaken for a sniper and a few bullets whistled over his head. (3)” Who’d have thought photography could have been such a dangerous profession!!

Below is a quote I discovered during my research which truly sums up the genius candid style that Brassai had perfected, and the outcome of this in the image below; “Occasionally Brassaï seems to have found that photographic holy grail, the decisive moment. His Lovers in a Small Cafe, Near the Place d’Italie (1932) seems just that, a pendant to Doisneau’s kissing couple. Here the lovers seated in a booth are poised to embrace. Her head is tilted back, the fingers of her right hand fanned in parallel to her face. Her painted smile, her painted nails are perfect. She is a study in abandon. And what of him? He is pressing her to the back of the booth and we see his hair, slicked back. The photographer has pounced and the moment has been seized. (4)”  This image is either completely candid, or it is a staged image that appears to look candid. Either way- the couple’s emotions look perfectly real, and passionate. A staged candid photo is a tact that I am currently working on. Getting the subject into the perfect position, but letting them decide upon expressions and gestures themselves. Laying the groundwork, but then letting the scene unfold naturally. This is what I believe Brassai has done in this image. And it is perfect!



Below are a few more examples of Brassai’s amazing work; I think I’m in love with this Photographer’s style!







(1) WIKIPEDIA (2013), Brassai, Available from:, [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(2) ICON PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL (2005-2013), Brassai: About & Photographs, Available from:, [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(3) THE GUARDIAN (2013), The Dark Lord, Available from: [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(4) THE GUARDIAN (2013), The Dark Lord, Available from: [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(5) TUMBLR, George Brassai, Available from: [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(6) ROOM 4777 (2009), Hoyningen-Huene  + Brassai, Available from: [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(7) GONZO (2008), In Pictures- Some Work By Brassai, Available from: [Accessed on 12/03/13]

(8) PINTEREST, George Brassai, Available from:, [Accessed on 12/03/13]


2 thoughts on “George Brassai

  1. Pingback: Compare and Contrast- Elliott Erwitt, George Brassai and Annie Leibovitz | Hans Photography

  2. Pingback: Module Reflection and Evaluation | Hans Photography

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