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Lesbian Couple at The Monocle
Brassaï (French (born Romania), Brașov 1899–1984 Côte d'Azur)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.7 x 21.7 cm (10 7/8 x 8 9/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Not on view
Born in Brasso, Transylvania, Gyula Halász took the name of his birthplace as a pseudonym in 1932, when he had lived in Paris for six years working as an illustrator and correspondent for Hungarian and German newspapers. In 1929, after accompanying the expatriate Hungarian photographer André Kertész on assignment, Brassaï decided to take up photography himself. His economic situation was dire: occasionally, after writing an article, he would pawn his typewriter, which he would later redeem with his camera after he had illustrated the piece. Despite such difficulties, Brassaï managed to master French during this time, and to become friends with many artists and with the writers Léon-Paul Fargue and André Queneau, in whose company or alone he would wander the city at night.
Brassaï's best photographs of the 1930s describe the nocturnal atmosphere of the French capital and the people who existed on the fringes or in the shadows--vagrants under bridges, streetwalkers and their clients in brothels, thugs and pimps in the alleys and dance halls. A true bohemian, and something of a chameleon and diplomat as well, Brassaï was accepted everywhere. He was so comfortable with his subjects and they with him that they would willingly assume natural poses for his camera. This photograph, taken at a bar owned by Lulu de Montparnasse on the rue Edgar-Quinet, is thus not the least sensationalistic. The evening is well advanced, the couple is easy and relaxed, the woman dreamily leaning against her partner, who tenderly touches her arm. Perhaps because he felt the journalist's need for an explanatory caption, Brassaï titled the photograph "Lesbian Couple at The Monocle," suggesting, despite the comfortable comportment, that he also considered the women exotic anthropological material.
[MMH; Waking Dream, p. 363]