With his wooden camera
And Transylvanian accent,
He caught your attention
In the midnight streets of Paris.
So you followed from a distance,
As he recorded the unrecordable:
Brothels, bordellos, backstage glimpses,
Street carnivals, transvestites.
In Montparnesse he walked with Henry,
Writer of two Tropics,
Cancer and Capricorn,
And his taxi-dancer muse.
Picasso and Anais knew him,
As did Kiki, Fargue and Prevert-
Painters, poets, hangers-on
Seen through his unblinking lens.
You envied him, you hated him,
Still you protected him-
He never knew in his twilight rambles
How close he came to death.
His work came to the public eye,
The year of 1933,
Pictures of the midnight city
In the language of the night.
You bought a copy of his book,
Leafing slowly through the dark-
Images of brothels and midnight markets
Pinned down in silver; you did not exist.
Seven decades later,
His work hangs at your back
Champaign and caviar for the crowd
As you step up to the podium.
You glance behind you at his work,
You look out at the audience:
Well-dressed bank executives,
Sleek officials and their wives.
You clear your throat before you say,
"On behalf of Wolfram and Hart,
Who sponsored this exhibition,
I present the works of Brassai."
Note: Brassai, a failed artist originally from Transylvania who roamed armed with a camera through Paris at night in the 1920s and 1930s, also documented such diverse personalities as Picasso, James, and Dali. When not hanging around with these stars of the literary and art world, he would wander with his camera through the darkened streets and miraculously, except for occasionally getting arrested for suspicion of burglary, was never assaulted or robbed the whole time despite the fact that the neighborhoods he combed for images were not always of the best. Jeunot's film "City of Lost Children" quotes his photographs quite often; the fat prostitute in a striped top being one of the more obvious ones that come to mind.