In the 1930s, Brassaï, not yet a photographer, but already a compulsive « stroller », observes and takes notes on the traces of a society in complete mutation, the dark corners of which he loves to explore. « He tracked down plots of wasteland, favourite places for lovers and children, leaving the signs of their love and their games on the walls; he observed buildings being demolished, in search of the limbo of lives abandoned by their former occupants, following with curiosity the blackened flues of chimneys, but above all, like a butterfly catcher for whom the quest for a fragile and fleeting life remains just as much a scientific principle as a philosophical one, he would flush out Parisian graffiti for almost 40 years. » Very soon, Brassaï realizes that his notes and drawings would not suffice to convey the ephemeral character of graffiti, and he decides to freeze their image through photography.
For more than 20 years, he collects dozens of images for which he quickly designs a very precise classification system with a determined order and denomination: propositions from the wall, the wall’s language, the birth of man, masks and faces, animals, love, death,
magic, primitive images. This true catalogue raisonné of a parietal art emerging from the dark intimacy of the polis constitutes one of the most important chapters of Brassaï’s oeuvre.