Influences: Weegee

Weegee-International_Center_of_Photography Weegee (12 June 12 1899 – 26 December 26 1968) was born Ascher (Usher) Fellig in what is now Zolochiv, Ukraine. He spent his career as a photographer and a photojournalist, famously working in New York’s Lower East Side in Manhattan during the 1920s and 1930s. His style was stark and raw black and white, which he developed as a result of chasing emergency vehicles in the city.

He was a documentarian, presenting life in its rawest form without apology. Still, he managed to make art of even this unvarnished view of the world. Weegee was a primary influence as a child, and remains so today.

By some reports, his moniker was a phonetic rendering of Ouija, because of his frequent, seemingly telepathic arrivals at scenes only minutes after crimes, fires or other emergencies were reported to authorities. He is variously said to have named himself Weegee or to have been named by either the staff at Acme Newspictures or by a police officer.

Like most photographers of the day, some of Weegee’s most famous shots are reputed to have been staged. However, whether they were or weren’t in no way detracts from the quality of his work.

Weegee pushed the borders of decency until there were no borders. Here, inspectors examine a corpse on a NYC street.

Some of his shots are tough to look at, but that’s the point. His is the advocacy of the Invisible Photographer, where the camera points at what it sees without judgment.

Once you accept that there are no borders, the everyday event becomes fair game for the street shooter.

Click to see the shots in the gallery below.

5 thoughts on “Influences: Weegee

  1. Pingback: Invisible | Firewing Photography

  2. Great stuff–I often wish I could “see” in images that explode in chemicals on paper or, now, electrons on pixels. I’m uncomfortably mesmerized by the burned guy, predictably inflamed by the drinking showgirl. Thanks for these–I’ve off to find more.


  3. Pingback: Track A: History of Street Photography, Part 3 – “Unchained” | Just Us

  4. Pingback: Track A, History of Street Photographers, Part 5 | Just Us

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