His photographic collection of prostitutes, pimps, nudes, couples romantically interested in each other and of other taboo subjects give his other works a seedy tone; an empty dark street with a lamp post or bench becomes a waiting spot for men and women of the night to take part in their sexual exploits.
I, however, am purely interested in his technical ability, how he creates aesthetically pleasing photographs, and how he captures the atmosphere of a given moment.
His photographs are close to perfection as ‘the blacks are bottomless, the greys are pearly and the lights are warmly alluring.’ – Sante, Luc. ‘Brassaï’s Cloak Of Night By Luc Sante’. Nybooks.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
The big difference between Brassai and Bresson is that Brassai’s subjects have a consciousness of his presence and are actively taking part in being photographed, giving a staged or performed appearance, whereas Bresson’s way of shooting minimizes subjects’ awareness of being photographed, giving a more natural and less forced appearance.
‘Using his training as a painter, Brassaï framed his shots so that small areas of light pierced large areas of blacks and shadows. Light reflected in wet streets and diffused by fog, would define shapes within the dark. This contrast gave his printed images richness and depth and he called these prints his “little boxes of night.”
Cartier-Bresson neither processed his own film nor made his own prints. Bresson always shot with a 35mm Leica camera, working quickly and unobtrusively. He would shoot dozens of frames chasing his “decisive moment.”
In contrast, Brassaï shot with a large, fixed lens and mounted the camera on a heavy wooden tripod. He never used a 35mm Leica, saying that he had no interest in taking dozens of shots of the same scene.
Also, unlike Cartier-Bresson he happily employed auxiliary lighting. For interior photographs like his café shots, he worked with an assistant who prepared a flash powder gun and a reflecting screen, while Brassaï chatted up and posed his subjects. The exploding flash powder produced a softer light than flashbulbs, giving the pictures their distinctive lighting. However, these powder explosions were so bright and loud that Picasso nicknamed Brassaï “The Terrorist.”
Brassaï was never the distant observer Cartier-Bresson was. Not only were his subjects co-conspirators in the photos, they were his acquaintances. Brassaï wants us to like them: we are among friends. We are guests at the table.’
- Meltzer, Steve. ‘The Piercing Eye Of Brassaï: The Stunning Work Of A Master French Photographer’. Imaging-resource.com. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
I much prefer Bresson’s unobtrusive style, but I prefer how Brassai used his skills in painting, and developed his own prints to create an interesting photograph.