FOLLOW US ON: follow us in feedly
GET THE NEWSLETTER
CONTACT US
Through a Lens, Darkly: Weegee’s photographs of death and disaster
07.12.2017
09:27 am
Topics:
Tags:

01wgcrimdd36.jpeg
 
Murder was easy. The stiff would lie on the sidewalk for an hour or two until the wagon took his body downtown to the morgue. The stiff was slumped in the doorway of an Italian cafe, head to the door, feet on the sidewalk. Weegee sized up the scene. Every other photographer was taking the close-up. Bloodied face. Bloodied hands. Legs at strange angles. Weegee clocked the people hanging out of their tenement windows looking down on the scene below. Moms, Dads, kids reading the funnies. This was the drama. One stiff was the same as another. Weegee wanted his pictures to show some humanity. He walked back about a hundred feet. Set up his camera. Used flash powder and Kazam! There was the whole scene. The corpse. The blood. The cops. The balcony seat of people looking out to see what had just happened. Drama. Humanity. Crime.

Weegee came out of Złoczów now part of the Ukraine. He was born Arthur Fellig in June 1899. He emigrated with his family. They landed New York 1909. Lived in the Lower East Side. His father was a hatmaker and part-time rabbi. Weegee took whatever work came. He became a janitor. Got the nickname “Squeegee Boy.” He hung around with the bums on the Bowery. Started taking photographs. First passport pictures, then commercial work. At the age of thirty-five, he upped his game, quit commercial work, became a freelance news photographer.

He went out nights, hung around the police station waiting for the stories to come in over the teletype. Off he went taking pictures of murders, fires, fender benders, wacko kids on their way to juvie hall. He spent two years with no accreditation following the police all around town. In 1938, the cops gave him his own police radio. Weegee could tune in and pick up on what was happening. Most times he got to the crime scene before the cops. The cops thought he must be psychic. This gave rise to the apocryphal story his nickname was the phonetic spelling of “Ouija.” Weegee added a darkroom to the trunk of his car. He took his picture, developed it at the scene, put his print on the back, and sold it to the papers. During his ten years at police headquarters, Weegee said he must have photographed 5,000 murders—“at least one murder every night.”

Weegee wanted to capture the perfect picture. He always claimed he photographed things just as he found them but this wasn’t always so. The famous pic of rich tiaraed dames in white furs off to the opera with a dirty-faced down-and-out lady beside them was staged. The bum was a drunk from a bar in the Bowery. She was paid a few drinks to stand next to the patrons going to the Met. Even so, it’s a damn fine photograph.

Taking people’s pictures wasn’t easy. At first, Weegee felt nervous, scared, but he knew he had to show confidence. He had to be in control. When he was, he found out people liked getting their pictures taken. One day his editor asked him why was it that when cops arrested perps and threw them in the back of the wagon, the criminals always covered their faces? Weegee came up with a solution for that. One night, Weegee asked a moll if she wanted the picture the papers used just to be her mugshot? Cause that’s certainly what they’re gonna use. Wouldn’t it be better if he took a good picture the way she wanted to be seen, well-lit like a Rembrandt, looking her best rather than some guilty lowlife? After that, most perps wanted Weegee to capture their best side.

Weegee photographed a world of crime and violence, murder and death. He changed the way we look at the world. He made an art form of the crime scene, which appealed to both the sensation-hungry readers of the tabloid press and the leafy, middlebrow, intellectuals. Weegee’s photographs created a style that is often copied but never bettered. This is film noir. This is every classic gangster movie you’ve seen. This is life as it happened.
 
021wgbalse.jpg
 
02wgcrimlif.jpg
 
More of Weegee’s shots of death & disaster, after the jump…
 

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
|
07.12.2017
09:27 am
|
Weegee’s photos from the set of ‘Dr. Strangelove’
10.05.2015
11:21 am
Topics:
Tags:


 
Weegee is most renowned for his brilliant photos of crime scenes as well as other urban subjects from the 1940s, but what you might not know is that Weegee was a “technical consultant” on the set of one of the greatest movies ever made, Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb. Furthermore, it seems that Peter Sellers’ vocal pattern for the eponymous character owes more than a small debt to Weegee, whose Hungarian/NYC voice Sellers recorded and apparently inspired him in creating Strangelove’s distinctively foreign accent.

Here is Ed Sikov, in his book Mr. Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers, on their vocal collaboration:
 

As though a satire about bombing all of humanity to death wasn’t gruesome enough, Kubrick brought in as technical consultant the photographer Weegee, who was known for having taken stark, emotionally charged photographs of an estimated five thousand murder scenes over the course of his grim career. Named Usher Fellig at birth, Weegee moved with his family to New York at the age of ten; officials at Ellis Island changed his name to Arthur. As a photographer, he seemed to be clairvoyant in terms of knowing where crimes had been committed; Weegee often arrived on the scene before the police. Hence his nickname (inspired by the Ouija board). Officially, Weegee’s technical consultations involved Dr. Strangelove’s periodically harsh, crime-scene-like black-and-white cinematography, but because he had an unusual accent—German overlaid with New York, all with a nasal, slightly strangled, back-of-the-throat quality—he inadvertently provided technical assistance for the film’s star as well.

I vas psychic!,” Weegee told Peter on the set one day—a conversation Peter was taping for research purposes. “I vould go to a moidah before it vas committed!” Peter’s vocal model for Strangelove was Weegee, whom Sellers pushed further into parody.

 

Among other things you can see shots of the famous “pie fight” sequence that was filmed but did not make it into the final cut of the movie.

There is a book available called Strangelove’s Weegee, but I don’t know what is in it.
 

 

 

 
Many more pics, plus a ‘making-of’ documentary of the movie, after the jump…......

READ ON
Posted by Martin Schneider
|
10.05.2015
11:21 am
|
Weegee’s whimsical snapshots of people watching movies
03.28.2015
12:28 pm
Topics:
Tags:


 
The American photographer Arthur Fellig, who took the name Weegee as a reference to his seemingly clairvoyant ability to arrive at the scenes of grisly crimes, often in advance of the authorities (the name “Weegee” derives from the board game “Ouija”). No other photographer combines the worlds of news reporting and high art as seamlessly as he does—many of his photos were taken for immediate publication in newspapers, but the originality of his compositions have ensured that his work is routinely discussed in the same breath as masters of photography like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbott, and Garry Winogrand. The prime of Weegee’s career was in the 1940s and he died in 1968, but the vitality of his pictures and the lurid subject matter (many of his subjects are murder victims) led to a certain vogue in the 1980s and 1990s. His first book was called Naked City, a phrase that was adopted by avant-garde jazz musician John Zorn for one of his combos in the 1980s—I first discovered Weegee’s work through the cover of their first album. In 1992 Joe Pesci starred in a fictionalized version of Weegee’s life called The Public Eye, directed by Howard Franklin (in the movie, Pesci plays “Bernzy,” who is embroiled in an actual murder plot).

In 1943, with the use of an infrared flash and special film, Weegee captured audience members in New York City movie theaters, unaware that their images were being recorded. The results are predictably marvelous….
 

 

 
Many more after the jump…....

READ ON
Posted by Martin Schneider
|
03.28.2015
12:28 pm
|