Even when the Germans invaded Paris during World War II, Brassaï refused to leave the country. He briefly fled to the French Riviera, but quickly returned to Paris, where his negatives (and inspiration) remained. When the allies liberated the city in 1944, Brassaï leaned out of his apartment window to watch—he was, as ever, the fearless voyeur. According to Lehtinen, the French mistakenly thought he was a German sniper and shot at him. They missed, but the bullet shattered Brassaï’s mirror. Of course, he took a picture to document the damage, which Lehtinen included in the show.
“Things were very dire then,” she says. “I think that was a big turning point for him.” The world that Brassaï had photographed with such adoration was gone, though he continued to live and work in France until his death in 1984. By the end of his life, he’d published 17 books and even produced one film, Tant qu’il y aura des bêtes (As long as there are beasts), which was released in 1955 and won a major prize at the Cannes Film Festival.