The photographer Brassaï was born as Gyula Halász on September 9, 1899, in Transylvanian-Saxon Braşov (Kronstadt). He studied painting from 1918-19 in Budapest and then from 1920-22 in Berlin. In 1924 he moved to Paris, where he worked as a journalist, sculptor and painter and where he became acquainted with Dalí, Picasso and Braque.
Around the same time, he began to teach himself photography. He met Atget and was impressed by his photographs. The photographer Kertész became a close friend, and many a time the two of them strolled through the big city’s streets. He assumed the artist name Brassaï in 1929, when he was already working as a freelance photographer. Brassaï was fascinated by Paris nightlife: "The hustle and bustle of the night has impressed me, and I said to myself that only a photo is in a position to reproduce it. A woman loaned me a camera. For months I have only taken pictures at night." He developed the pictures in a hotel room. In 1932, they were published in the photo volume "Paris de Nuit", which is considered one of his main works.
On his strolls through Paris, Brassaï discovered the graffiti on the house walls as a photographic theme that would end up fascinating him for many years. He transformed the graffiti into large photographs and published them in 1933 in the surrealist journal "Le Minotaure". Twenty-three years later, these pictures were exhibited in the New York MoMA.
During the German Occupation, Brassaï was not permitted to work professionally; however, he photographed at Picasso’s request the artist’s sculptures in any case. These pictures were published in 1964 under the title "Conversations avec Picasso".
Once World War II had ended, Brassaï worked for "Harper's Bazaar" and traveled as a reportage photographer around the world. In addition, he made portraits of numerous artists from Dalí, Braque and Matisse, to Miró and Giacometti, to Le Corbusier. Besides this, he created during the years 1945-50 several ballet and theater scenes and made films (for example "Tant qu'il y aura des Bêtes", 1955). In 1962 he gave up photography and began to paint again, and after 1968 he also began to create sculptural works.
Brassaï died on July 8, 1984 in Beaulieu-sur-Mer.