Dreams of Desire 47 (Brassai)

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.


Dreams of Desire 21 (Enmeshed)

Portrait Through Wire-Man Ray 1930
A highly fetishistic portrait by the master Surrealist photographer Man Ray who in his work makes everything appear fetishistic. Portrait Through Wire first appeared in Le Surrealisme au service de la Revolution in July 1930. The wire enmeshes the body, hands (always important for Man Ray) and face is suggestive of an all over silk stocking and renders the model alluringly exotic and other. However the sadness in the eyes with their mute appeal makes us aware that the wire is also a physical barrier behind which she is trapped. Her inaccessibility paradoxically increases her erotic appeal.