“Le Stryge” (“The Vampire”) is one of the gargoyles of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Its name goes back to a famous drawing by Charles Méryon. The latter considered these creatures an embodiment of “Luxuria”, i.e. sexual desire and extravagance. Brassaï took this picture on one of his many nocturnal wanderings through Paris and it appeared in his book “Paris by Night” (1932), which virtually vaulted him to fame. This photo occupies a special place in the book; it is the important “opener”, and depicts the scene in a “long shot”. The view extends across to St. Jacques, in front of which we recognise the police prefecture.
It is striking how Brassaï gleans emotion and expression from things that remain invisible. For neither the medieval demon nor the glittery nightlife can actually be seen. Rather, what emerges from the misty sea of lights is the “soul” of the modern metropolis, a world of elegant pastimes and desires, unquenched longings and prostitution. As in nearly all of Brassaï’s scenes of Paris, however, we can sense the deliberate pictorial composition by the trained painter. He combined atmospheric density with great formal concision and crafted many of his photos in the manner of a stage director.
© Brassaï (Gyula Halász)