Brassai may be best known for his documentation of late night Paris but for three decades starting in 1930 he collected these exquisite photographs of graffiti and wall carvings throughout Paris. Although Brassai’s work is celebrated for its ability to capture characters of the city these photographs in many ways also exemplify another aspect of the changing face of the metropolis. There is an authenticity to these wall carvings which is completely undeniable but simultaneously corresponds with the then popularity of primitivism in surrealistic art. Many of the arbiters of the African influence in Paris were of course also friends with the photographer. Brassai saw these carvings as a form of outsider art that could open the door to new forms of artistic expression, through these photographs we can see how universal and timeless it is to want to mark our own environment which goes far beyond any term like ‘the primitive’. We will never know who created these pieces of graffiti and their authenticity will always remain a mystery but in comparison to the relentless appraisal of street art currently happening these are completely refreshing.
You can watch a little interview with Brassai about these photographs here