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Photo of the Week #128


Brassaï, A Monastic Brothel, Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, Quartier Latin, c. 1931

Brassaï, A Monastic Brothel, Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, Quartier Latin, c. 1931


Feb 16, 2021
In 1924 Gyula Halász, known to us as Brassaï, moved to Paris, the city with which his nom de plume will be forever associated. His arrival coincided with the dawn of photojournalism’s golden age and he was swept up by it. With a booming publishing industry hungry for photo essays, Brassaï began shooting pictures of his own, often at night. By 1931 Brassaï’s photography was appearing regularly in crime and sex themed magazines, and his name became synonymous with brothels and other shadowy late night gatherings like the voyeuristic scene shown here.
This picture was taken in the Latin Quarter, a neighborhood known for its “grisettes,'' independent young women who were romanticized in French culture as bohemian free spirits. The women regularly served as both model and mistress to the artists who employed them - they were also fixtures of the underground and avant-garde nightlife that Brassaï chronicled. This photograph was taken on rue Monsieur-le-Prince a few paces from le Polidor, a famed restaurant that would have been familiar to Brassaï as a frequent haunt of authors like his friend Henry Miller. It was Miller who dubbed Brassaï “The Eye of Paris”. Walking down rue Monsieur-le-Prince now the brothel is gone but le Polidor still stands, almost unchanged.