Monday, May 23, 2011

Weegee: The Papparazzi of the Night


It's time to step away from curious encounters in the country and focus on the seedier side of midnight in the city. Herein presented are the gritty photographs of lawbreakers, victims and crime scenes as seen by the early 20th century photographer Arthur Fellig, more popularly known as Weegee.

His nickname has nothing to do with the Internet meme. Instead, he earned it through his uncanny ability to show up at the right crime scenes and at the right time in the 1930s and 40s. There is some dispute whether the name Weegee (a phonetic interpretation of the popular board game) was given to him by the newspapers or authorities, or whether he picked it himself, but there is no doubt that the name fits him quite well.


The few pictures presented here were most probably taken just after a perpetrator's arrest, but in many occasions, Weegee would arrive well before any authorities were at the scene, take pictures, develop the photographs (in the trunk of his car), and be well on his way to sell his photos to the nearest tabloids and newspapers.

The camera that he used was equipped with flashbulbs which produced a very direct and harsh light, not unlike today's compact cameras. This gave his night-time pictures an objective and rather unflattering black and white contrast. Save for a few differences in the fashion of that time, some of these photographs could be mistaken for images taken quite recently with a compact cam.


Weegee is most often credited for helping develop the tabloid newspaper during its infancy, but while today's tabloid journalism focuses more on the sensational aspects of celebrities and the like, Weegee was not afraid of showing both the glamour of the upper class and the sleazier side of the streets.


Here is a New York Times feature with a few slides of Weegee's work along with some commentary. A Google search of his images will reveal many crime scenes photos such as the ones above, but you'll also find many images of his night-time street photography, nudes, high society snapshots, and ironically, that annoying meme. Do a search on Arthur Fellig instead. For hardcopies, go for Naked City, In Focus: Weegee, Unknown Weegee, and Weegee (Phaidon 55).





47 comments:

CPH said...

These pictures are amazing!

Guy Movie Blogger said...

Fantastic. What a great article.

Dejch said...

Gangsta times... it's the same now only they are trying to be a little bit more civilized lol

The Angry Lurker said...

Never heard of him but the images remind me of Jude Laws character in Road to Perdition, stunningly blunt images.

HiFi said...

Wow, these are incredible. These people look like mobsters and they all have suits on. Criminals had class back in the 30's!

Intraman said...

waw amazing pictures

D4 said...

I like him, he's sly.

Fang said...

So, was it a real crime, or a setup for the photo?

Astronomy Pirate said...

Those are some great quality pictures given the time. Also a bit creepy.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Those are fantastic, look like screen shots from a French New Wave film.

Dale said...

I'd never heard of him, these pics are so realistic and weird to look at compared to the ones we see today. How did he know how to get to the crime and where it was before authorities? Nice post, definitely a different crime era

-Dale

BigMike said...

Wow his GIS is awesome!

Dave said...

Great pics and great story.

Generally Disgruntled said...

Weegee shows what everyone should realize: There never were any "good old times." Crime has existed since the second caveman decided he wanted the first caveman's rock, and he was just going to take it

Shutterbug said...

Interesting set of photos!

Trolske said...

Wow, kinda scary that he was faster at the scenes than the authorities....

MRanthrope said...

viewing these photos, made me think of a movie montage with spinning newspapers flying through the background and these violent images popping up every few seconds with headlines like:

"mob war escalates"

G said...

Those are some crazy pics - interesting style

Malkavian said...

Wow now that was journalism.

DocStout said...

Nice photos, and I'm glad to learn that the name once had nothing to do with the internet or Mario Bros.

Colin Biano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart said...

damn it feels good to be a gangsta

fit4life said...

those are some unsettling pictures..

OatmealStout said...

Whoa! These are impressive!

jblogger45 said...

very nice

Wintermute said...

odd subject for him to cover, but I can understand the interest

Admin said...

I've never heard of him either. Thanks for enlightening me.

Jacob said...

hard core pictures!

Geoffrey said...

Oh wow, those are some brilliant photos.

duffboi said...

Wow, that's quite a niche. Wonder how he timed showing up for those photos so well.

Alphabeta said...

Eery, gritty and uncanny.
This Weegee guy was damn good.

Banacek said...

Cool and creepy.

Pool Fool said...

a nice hell of papparazzi

H A R R Y G O A Z said...

One of my favorite photographers.

Have a SUPER week !

Flodström said...

Those pictures are disturbing me. It's important not to forget that these things happen though...

Moobeat said...

thanks for the great post, as always

Laughing Vault said...

damn, amazing pictures

Necroticism said...

Now that's an oldschool paparazzo!

Jaccstev said...

Those are completely some cool shots!

Rorschach Redemption said...

Grim. (I'd hate to be known as Weegee though)

Inhia said...

beautiful photos of an ugly thing

lovebloggin said...

that's some cool stuff, thanks for sharing!

sildude said...

Fascinating photos.

Freddy S. said...

Those are intense pictures. I'm follower number 420 btw.

ChazWellington said...

these photos are incredible.

¡ɥsoſ said...

Weegee?!?!?

Zertuzzi said...

great

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