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Weegee Photo

Weegee

Austrian-American Photographer

Movements and Styles: Street Photography, Documentary Photography, Photojournalism, Straight Photography

Born: June 12, 1899 - Lemberg, Austria (now in Ukraine)

Died: December 27, 1968 - New York City, USA

Weegee Timeline

Quotes

"People are so wonderful that a photographer has only to wait for that breathless moment to capture what he wants on film... and when that split second of time is gone, it's dead and can never be brought back."
Weegee
"For the pictures... I was on the scene; sometimes drawn there by some power I can't explain, and I caught the New Yorkers with their masks off... not afraid to Laugh, Cry, or Make Love."
Weegee
"When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you are on the right track."
Weegee
"There are photographic fanatics, just as there are religious fanatics. They buy a so-called candid camera... there is no such thing: it's the photographer who has to be candid, not the camera."
Weegee
"I'm no part time dilettante photographer, unlike the bartenders, shoe salesmen, floorwalkers plumbers, barbers, grocery clerks and chiropractors whose great hobby is their camera. All their friends rave about what wonderful pictures they take. If they're so good, why don't they take pictures full - time, for a living, and make floor walking, chiropractics, etc., their hobby? But everyone wants to play it safe. They're afraid to give up their pay checks and their security they might miss a meal."
Weegee

"To me a photograph is a page from life, and that being the case, it must be real."

Weegee Signature

Synopsis

Weegee was a legendary news photographer, whose stock and trade were candid shots of people in the streets, in bars, and at crime scenes. His professional name was Weegee (spelled phonetically), after the popular fortune-telling game, Ouija board, to which his supposed sixth sense for crime was compared. This "sense" led him to the scene well ahead of the police - although it turns out that he actually had his radio tuned to the police frequency. Thus, Weegee created his own legend and reveled in his own notoriety. Yet, more importantly, his voyeuristic photographs exhibited the underbelly of New York City, melding popular culture with the experience of immigrants and the working classes, catching the attention of both the news media and the fine art community.

Key Ideas

Weegee's Photojournalism focused on the picture's narrative content and visual punch, making his human interest stories novel. They drew attention to the extremes and foibles of the city crowd, who constitute an unknown underworld. As historian Graham Clarke points out, Weegee thus "images a secret city: murder victims, muggers, transvestites,... [as well as private moments] - anything that might feed his hungry eye in search of the sensational and murky photograph."
Weegee worked at the PM Daily paper which established a new model of reportage that Weegee took full advantage of to introduce new subjects as well as expand his own repertoire of images to include crime scenes, street people, and circus performers. His photographs had their own meaning, and served as a source for various kinds of photo-essays, which ultimately appear in his photo book Naked City.
Like the progressive press he worked for, Weegee was caught up in the field's newness, sense of possibility, and influence. He therefore organized his last chapter in Naked City as a long essay on what he called "Camera Tips." He told aspiring photographers, "Don't try to guess focus, just practice six and ten feet." He advised amateur photographers, tempted by the fancy new flashes, against using them and told them "I still use a flash bulb." The press flash-gun, Weegee's preferred mode of illumination, literally exposed his subjects in a sensational manner.

Biography

Weegee Photo

Childhood and Early Training

Weegee was born Usher Fellig on June 12, 1899 near the city of Lemberg, Austria, what is today Zolochiv, Ukraine. Yet, his story begins once he immigrated with his family to the United States in 1909 at age 11. Upon arriving at Ellis Island, his name was immediately changed to the more American sounding Arthur. Like most immigrants, Arthur grew up in extreme poverty, and spent his childhood living in a Lower East Side tenement building in New York City, along with his parents and three other siblings. His father, Bernard Fellig, sold goods from a pushcart around the neighborhood for a meager wage. Bernard became an ordained orthodox rabbi and kept the Sabbath, even though it hindered him from earning money for his family.

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Weegee Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Weegee
Interactive chart with Weegee's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
BrassaiBrassai

Personal Contacts

Edward SteichenEdward Steichen
Ralph Steiner
Lisette ModelLisette Model

Movements

Documentary PhotographyDocumentary Photography
PhotojournalismPhotojournalism
Street PhotographyStreet Photography

Influences on Artist
Weegee
Weegee
Years Worked: 1935 - 1968
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Diane ArbusDiane Arbus
Banks Violette

Personal Contacts

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Stanley KubrickStanley Kubrick

Movements

Modern PhotographyModern Photography
Pop ArtPop Art
Street PhotographyStreet Photography
PhotojournalismPhotojournalism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Katelyn Davis

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Katelyn Davis
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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