Weegee The Famous, 1977

Unidentified magazine, ca. 1943

The myth that Weegee had a darkroom in the trunk of his car probably began in 1977 with the publication of Weegee the Famous: “Weegee, 1942. He used the trunk of his Chevrolet as a darkroom.”
If one looks closely at the photo, it resembles an office, not a darkroom. From a magazine, published around 1943: “Photography’s self-nominated genius at his portable office, typing captions at two A.M.” Many of the titles and dates in Weegee the Famous are not accurate. We think the magazine from the early 1940s is accurate: “Photography’s self-nominated genius at his portable office, typing captions at two A.M.”

Naked City, 1945






WEEGEE, Four Polaroid Experiments, Photography Annual, 1959
“I like to experiment. The Polaroid camera was the last challenge and this is the best camera to experiment with. When I get an idear (sic), before it skips my mind, I have it on paper… with out the fuss and bother of darkroom chemicals, etc.”

In addition to four amazing Weegee Polaroid photos this edition of Photography Annual contains the “First publication: W. Eugene Smith’s monumental Pittsburgh story.”



Weegee, ca. 1943
Screen shots from Guardian website

“Stolen kisses and naughty naps: Weegee goes to the movies – in pictures”
“He may be known as the best ambulance-chaser of the 30s and 40s, but Weegee didn’t only shoot crime scenes. He also drifted into the darkness and candidly captured cinema-goers in New York: gangs of giggling kids, sombre popcorn eaters and lovers in the back row.
See a selection at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas in New York until 13 June, 2015″
From Guardian website

Great exhibition of some of Weegee’s photos (modern digital prints) made in movie theaters in the early 1940s.

“Saturday afternoon show for the youngsters at Loews Commodore Theater on Second Avenue… [105 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10003… Fillmore East, etc. according to Cinema Treasures)… Some of the kids brought their lunch… lolly pops… and one fellow even brought a toy pistol… I took pictures in the dark with infra-red rays so that I wouldn’t disturb anyone…”
Weegee’s People, chapter 6.

Semi-secret and esoteric exhibition in NYC, on 23d St., near the Chelsea Hotel…

Location of exhibition, 23d St.

Google Street View of 105 Second Ave., NYC





Paparazzi! Photographers, stars and artists, Centre Pompidou-Metz and Flammarion, 2014

Images are from the book Paparazzi! Photographers, Stars and Artists, a catalogue for the exhibition (February 26 to June 9, 2014) at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, published by Centre Pompidou-Metz and Flammarion.

“Centre Pompidou-Metz dedicates an unprecedented exhibition to the phenomenon and aesthetic of paparazzi photography through more than 600 works (photography, painting, video, sculpture, installation, etc.).
Covering fifty years of celebrities caught in the lens, Paparazzi! Photographers, stars and artists considers the paparazzo at work by examining the complex and fascinating ties that form between photographer and photographed, going on to reveal the paparazzi influence on fashion photography.
By associating some of the genre’s leading names, including Ron Galella, Pascal Rostain and Bruno Mouron, Tazio Secchiaroli, with reflections on this modern-day myth by Richard Avedon, Raymond Depardon, William Klein, Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol, Paparazzi! Photographers, stars and artists sets out to define the paparazzi aesthetic.”
From the Centre Pompidou-Metz website

Weegee was obviously not a Paparazzi, if the definition of Paparazzi is: “a freelance photographer who pursues celebrities to get photographs of them.” And Paparazzi is “mid 20th century: from Italian, from the name of a character in Fellini’s film La Dolce Vita (1960).” (Google definition)
There are obvious similarities between Weegee’s photos of alleged criminals hiding their faces and photos of contemporary celebrities hiding their faces. Early in Weegee’s career he used a few Paparazzi-like tricks to photograph a few alleged criminals… With one or two exceptions, like kissing Dorothy Hart, Weegee was pretty tame towards celebrities. Weegee made caricatures of celebrities, he didn’t doggedly pursue them in real life…

“Seated in the chair was the handcuffed burglar. The minute he saw me, he covered up. Out of the side of his mouth, he said. “I don’t want my picture took!” (Such grammar!) But this guy was a hardened criminal and knew his rights. The cops couldn’t force him to pose for me. I put my camera down on a nearby desk, and said to no one in particular, “I’m going out to get a cup of coffee and a pastrami sandwich.” As I reached the door, I looked back. The guy was uncovered. The flash bulb went off when I pressed the remote control switch in my pocket, and I had my picture. When criminals tried to cover their faces it was a challenge to me. I litereally uncovered not only their faces but their black souls as well.”
Weegee by Weegee, p. 69

“I went into the basement where they were holding the girl [who was arrested for robbery]. As soon as she saw me, she covered up. “I just want to talk to you, lady,” I said. “I won’t take you picture unless I get permission.”
We talked. She wanted to know why she should let me take her picture so her friends could see her on the front pages of the papers. She was no dope, even if she had been caught. I argued with her: “Why don’t you let me take your picture? I’ll make you so glamorous, it’ll land you on the society page. You’ll get a lot of sympathy. Or, would you prefer that I get a rogues’ gallery picture from the cops with a number under it?” That was a lot of hooey, but I finally convinced her that it was the lesser of two evils to pose for me. This being a quiet Sunday night with the papers starved for pictures, I knew that I had a ready sale.”
Weegee by Weegee, pp. 69-70

PM, December 26, 1940
Weegee Covers Christmas in New York… In Pictures and Words…

By Weegee
Early Christmas Eve I received a phone call [a funny thing to receive from a person who consistently wrote that he had no phone: “In my room, I would have the mail and telegrams slipped under my door. I had no phone; I’m allergic to them…” Weegee by Weegee, 1961, pp. 64-65] from Wesley Price, one of PM’s picture editors. Price told me he wanted a good holiday picture, something with plenty of OOMPH. Lots of Christmas spirit in it. in other words a masterpiece. Jokingly I replied you just couldn’t order a picture like that, like you would a box of cigars. It had to happen. However, I asked him if he had any suggestions. He suggested that I get the picture in for the first edition. [Slightly different environment than: “The upshot was that I had a roving assignment from PM for the next four-and-a-half years. I picked my own stories. When I found a good one, I brought t in. All they had to do was mail me my weekly check for seventy-five dollars… which they did.” Weegee by Weegee, 1961, p. 86]
I left police headquarters in my car at 2:30 Christmas morning. I turned the two radios on. One the regular broadcast receiver, to get some holiday music to put me in the mood; and the other radio, a police short wave receiver to get the police signals so I would know what was going on.
The first police call I picked up was for West and Bank Sts. When I got there I found a car with a Jersey license, turned on its side, with a cop on top of it. Nobody seemed to be hurt. Soon a towing wagon arrived to take the car away. I made a shot of it and was on my way.
Then I picked up six fire alarm signals. They were alll false. I didn’t think Santa did that.
Then I stopped at the All Night Mission at No. 8 Bowery. [Not the still extant Bowery Mission.] Every night in the year about 100 hopelessly beaten and homeless men sit on benches and sleep as best they can. [see below]
Except for a Christmas tree in front, everything was the same. The same despair and hopelessness. I tiptoed in at 4 in the morning, being careful not to disturb anyone. Everyone was asleep. The place was as usual playing to “Sitting up” only. The same electric sign was lit with the illuminated big letters, JESUS SEES, the only source of light in the place. I wondered if He approved…
On the way out, along a big stove near the door, I noticed a pair of stockings, turned inside out, hung to dry.
Next I picked up a police alarm for 102nd St. and Lexington Ave. When I got there I found a man had been stabbed to death and was lying on the corner. From the St. John’s Episcopal Church, [according to the Internet, there is no St. John’s Episcopal Church at 102nd St. and Lexington Ave. There is one in the Village, 224 Waverly Place…] on the opposite corner, came the sound of organ music and the singing of the Christmas worshipers. I made a shot of the scene and started back to police headquarters.
When I arrived at my home, in back of Police Headquarters, I found a package wrapped in fancy paper outside my door. It was a present from my Chinese laundry man, Willie Chu, of 95 Elizabeth St. It contained a pound of tea and a half pound of lichee nuts. I had been looking for the Christmas spirit all night long. And had found it, on my doorstep. Lichee NUTS to you, Santa Claus…

Coincidentally The New Yorker also stopped by the All Night Mission in 1940: ABSTRACT: Talk story about census enumeration of the derelicts in the Bowery. Since none of the homeless men know in the morning whether his address will be a flophouse, an allnight mission, or a doorway, the enumerators waited until evening to cover the Bowery. In each of the hotels – the Sunshine, Uncle Sam House, the Plaza, and the rest – were two enumerators, who got the statistics on each guest before he was allowed to register & go to his bed. At the All-Night Mission, 8 Bowery, we found 80-odd men quietly starting to spend the night sitting up. A single enumerator was taking down the information an old man was giving him. He had been born in N. Y. C. 67 years ago. No wife, no, children? no. He wasn’t looking for work. He was on relief. Home? Well, the mission…

Weegee’s Christmas day journey, on a Google Map, might look like this.

A classic New York City Christmas story… published 28 years to the day, before the end…


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