You Promised Me Paris

Brassai
Brassai

Do you remember?
Probably not,
Not rightly anyway.
I’ve listened to you reminisce,
Oh I don’t know
How many thousand times
And it only tangentially
Touches upon the truth:
Bears little to no resemblance
To any reality we ever lived.
You re-cast yourself as the hero,
The catalyst and centre-point
Of every scenario and situation.
You re-write the script,
The story changes in the telling
Every single time.
But do you remember?
Don’t you remember that

You promised me Paris
As a pendant,
Hanging from my necklace
Fashioned from falling stars.
You promised me the world
As a good luck charm,
Swinging from my bracelet
Wrought from light beams.
You promised me Paris,
You promised me Paris.

I wish I could forget
The years of careless neglect,
The constant evasions,
The way I avert my downcast eyes
As you smile once again
At some passing sweet young thing.
Look what you have made of me,
You could never help yourself.
You are always searching,
For someone to save you
From your own wretched self.
But you know it’s later than you think
Though sometimes I can almost believe
That you once believed
In you and me as a destiny,
In the words you spoke,
That I wish I could forget,
But I can never forget that

You promised me Paris
As a pendant,
Hanging from my necklace
Fashioned from falling stars.
You promised me the world
As a good luck charm,
Swinging from my bracelet
Wrought from light beams.
You promised me Paris,
You promised me Paris.

Graffiti

Graffiti c. 1950s-Brassai
Graffiti c. 1950s-Brassai

Brassaï’s close-ups of graffiti carved and painted on Parisian city walls were first seen in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure in 1933, however he would continue to photograph images of graffiti for the next three decades, culminating in the publication of the book, Graffiti, in 1961.

With this project, ‘the eye of Paris’ as he was called by his great friend Henry Miller, detects and captures the secret language of the walls and how the city itself is subject to alteration, defacement and obliteration by any passing hand or the vagaries of time.

 

 

Convulsive Beauty

The Lovers' Flower-From Nadja 1928-Leona Delcourt
The Lovers’ Flower-From Nadja 1928-Leona Delcourt

Andre Breton had ended Nadja with the bold statement that: “Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.” In L’Amour Fou (Mad Love) from 1937 he further expands on the theme with the declaration: “Convulsive beauty will be veiled-erotic, fixed-explosive, magic-circumstantial, or won’t be at all.” Accompanying the text are three photographs illustrating the types of convulsive beauty: Man Ray‘s Veiled-Erotic, a stunning nude study of the Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim, Fixed-Explosive also by Man Ray and Brassai‘s strange Magic-Circumstantial. All the images had previously appeared in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure.

Dreams of Desire 49 (Union Libre)

union-libre-poem-by-andr-breton-embossed-in-braille-on-a-photograph-leon-ferrari-wikiartorg-1403439602_org1
Leon Ferrari-Union Libre 2004
Quite by chance (regulars readers will know how highly I regard thar particular concept, after all a throw of the dice will never abolish chance) I came upon this beautiful work by Leon Ferrari, a photograph embossed in Braille with one of my favourite poems, Andre Breton’s magnificent Free Union (click link to view English translation). The photograph with the mirror reflecting is reminiscent of  Man Ray ( Dreams of Desire 25 (Return to Reason), Brassai (Dreams of Desire 47 (Brassai) and the many photographers who engaged with Golden Age Surrealism: at once sensual, elusive and utterly mysterious.

Dreams of Desire 47 (Brassai)

brassai-le-nu-1949-courtesy-of-la-petit-melancolie1
Brassai-Nude 1949
One of the greatest of 20th century photographers, Brassai’s reputation rests largely on the iconic images of Parisian street and night life he captured in his 1933 book Paris de nuit (Paris by night), which with its noir, atmospheric depiction of fog bound streets, bustling cafes and brothel scenes populated by lovers, prostitutes, pimps and other coldly calculating seekers of pleasure, forever sealed in the popular imagination the myth of Paris as the quintessential bohemian city. Considering the milieu he portrayed it is maybe no surprise that Brassai was also a master of the nude study. Many of his more abstract and experimental nudes of the 1930’s were featured in the Surrealist magazine Minotaure.

Born Gyula Halasz in Brasov, Transylvania, at the time part of Hungary, later Romania, in 1899,  Brassai studied in Budapest and Berlin before moving to Paris in 1924, where he would live for the rest of his life. Here he adopted his pseudonym Brassai, taken from the name of his home town. He took up photography initially only to supplement his income, however he soon realised that it was the perfect medium to capture the nocturnal essence of Paris. He was a friend to many of the artists and writers of the period, including Henry Miller, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Henri Matisse and Alberto Giacometti.

I have including below a mixture of his experimental and documentary studies of the female form.