“To me, pictures are like blintzes — ya gotta get ’em while they’re hot.” -Weegee
Weegee, the photographer Arthur Fellig’s pseudonym is the phonetic spelling of the Ouija board. He is known for his gritty photographs made mostly at night of newsworthy events with a 4×5 Speed Graphic press camera and flashbulbs. He was one of the first New York newsmen to have an official police radio in his car. Weegee prided him on being the first to arrive on a crime scene, often even before the police.
“Probably few policemen have seen as much violent sin as Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, did. Specializing in crime and catastrophe, Weegee’s work is regarded as some of the most powerful images of the 20th century. His profound influence on other photographers derives not only from his sensational subject matter and his use of the blinding, close-up flash, but also from his eagerness to photograph the city at all hours, at all levels: coffee shops at three in the morning, hot summer evenings in the tenements, debutante balls, parties in the street, lovers on park benches, the destitute and the lonely. No other photographer has better revealed the non-stop spectacle of life in New York City.” – Steven Kasher Gallery bio of Weegee
Weegee made his living selling photos to newspapers from 1935 and throughout the 1940s. Weegee focused his work on police headquarters in NYC. He sold his sensational photographs of news events to the Herald-Tribune, Daily News, Post, the Sun, PM Weekly and others. His work began appearing outside the mainstream news press and his fame spread.
“Naked City,” 1945
“Naked City” was published in 1945 followed by “Weegee’s People” in 1946. “Naked City” was a success and provided him with an ongoing income
Weegee turned to celebrity and entertainment industry photography making portraits of notables of the time. During this time he had moved to Los Angeles where he spent his time and energy making 16 mm films and creating his “Distortions” series of photographs. These were experimental portraits of celebrities and politicians. He returned to New York in 1952 where he wrote and lectured about photography until his death on December 26, 1968.
Weegee’s vision of himself as a photographer is shown in the titles of some of the many exhibitions of his work. “Murder is My Business,” “Caricatures of the Great,” “Weegee by Weegee” and “Weegee the Famous” are a few of the shows he mounted during his lifetime.
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