The New Yorker, May 28, 2018, pp. 64-65
(Screenshot from newyorker.com)
“Weegee the Famous, the Voyeur and Exhibitionist: The street photographer turned gritty, grisly New York scenes into art.” newyorker.com
“This article appears in the print edition of the May 28, 2018, issue, with the headline “Shots in the Dark.””
Great review… of a Great book: “Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous” (Holt) by Christopher Bonanos…
Page 220 of the essential and indispensable book “Extra! Weegee” features a photo of a large, empty box. The photo (exactly like the photo below) is cluttered and claustrophobic, yet empty. Perhaps it’s a crime scene. There are boxes, cartons, a coat, and papers on top of the empty box and on shelves in the background, there’s a can or two on the ground; a pole and it’s shadow are in the foreground.
Beneath the photo in “Extra! Weegee” is a caption:
“RECLUSE DIES IN COFFIN-LIKE BED.
New York – Nightly for thirty-five years, Jeremiah Erranght, 55, would lock himself in the four-foot square iron box and go to sleep. When Erranght, who kept to himself, not allowing anyone to enter his squalid two-rooms at 79 Allen St. was missed by neighbors, the police were summoned. Breaking into the apartment, the police were confronted with the strange box. Using torches, the box was opened and inside was discovered the body of Erranght. Neighbors say he is quite wealthy.”
It’s an intriguing and enigmatic photo, appropriately people-free; Grand Guignol reality from the gritty ghetto of the (Lower) East Side… We didn’t see any coverage in PM. The NY Post had the best coverage. The Daily News coverage was silly and the NY Times had a pair of articles. AP distributed a widely printed short story. All photo-free. (No mention in the press about the Selox soap boxes: “The Speed Soap. Saves time, clothes, work, money”; “The Speed Soap. Quick sudsing – safe – economical,” for clothes and dishes.)
March 16, 1942:
NY Post, front page, then page 8:
“Dies in Coffin in Which He Lived.
Eccentric’s Body Clothed in Galoshes, Earmuffs”
“The mystery of Jeremiah Erranght, accurately nicknamed Dracula by a sharp-eyed East Side kid years ago… lived for 35 of his 55 years in a two-room flat at 79 Allen St… Yesterday police smashed down the door… and found him dead.
Like Dracula, the king vampire of Bram Stoker’s creation, the recluse had almost literally dwelt in a coffin. His six-foot length was found crammed in a four-foot-square sheet metal box, which he had built himself… its narrow door was padlocked on the inside.
…He had a job – coach washer for the Pennsylvania R.R. [in Sunnyside, Queens] – to which he went faithfully, clad in a black suit, black hat and a capelike outer garment…
He bought prodigiously and fantastically. A crate of eggs, two boxes of apples, 12 dozen oranges. Six boxes of candles… A case of ketchup…
…once a month the recluse would open his door a crack, slip $15 though and utter a single sepulchral word: “Rent.”
The police who forced their way into the place yesterday saw a strange sight. The windows had been nailed shut and were opaque with decades of grime. Two tables were deeply encrusted with dirt, as were two chairs…
The body was clothed in trousers and undershirt, galoshes and earmuffs. There was no bedding in the box.
Two old trunks held only yellowed scraps of paper, on which the writing was mostly illegible… and a key to a safe deposit box…”
AP: “…They broke into his unlighted and unheated room after neighbors reported him missing for several days and plowed through the trash-filled, furniture-less abode for half an hour before deciding to pry open the big box.
There, knees drawn up because of his six-foot figure’s space requirements, they found Erranght, wearing galoshes and ear muffs. Natural causes, they said, apparently brought the mystery man’s unnatural life to an end.”
“Lone ‘Dracula’ Dies In Box He Slept In
A mysterious, silent black-clad recluse, called Dracula by the children of the neighborhood, was found dead yesterday in a four-foot square, homemade sheet-metal box in which he slept at his one-room flat at 79 Allen St…
The room was without gas, electricity, heat or furnishings except the metal box and two trunks containing some newspaper clippings and faded letters…
His only purchases at a nearby store were candles and oatmeal…”
“Recluse Dies Locked in 4-Foot Metal Box
In Which He Slept Wearing His Galoshes
A taciturn six-footer whose long black cape and hat were a familiar sight on the East Side was found dead yesterday in a metal chamber that served as his bed in the two squalid rooms he had occupied for thirty-five years at 79 Allen Street.
Death was apparently due to natural causes, the police said… had pried off the lid of the boxlike bed 4 1/2 feet high and 4 feet wide and long… The chamber was ventilated by small perforations in its two-inch-thick walls…
…The only food in the rooms was oatmeal. There were a couple of broken tables and chairs and the metal chamber that a policeman said resembled a ‘medieval torture chamber.’…
…alarmed at not having heard the heavy iron door clang shut at night, Siebert [the janitor who lived next door] called the police.
In the neighborhood the children spoke of him as a ‘Dracula-like’ figure…”
” ‘Ghetto Dracula’ is Found Dead in His Torture Bed
Death today sealed the mystery of the Ghetto ‘Dracula.’
In a trash-littered, bedless two-room East Side apartment…
His elongated figure garbed in a long black cape and wide black hat caused children to call him Dracula.
Police said the almost furniture-less candle-lit apartment shed little light on Erranght. Two black trunks filled with yellow, illegible documents, a safety deposit key and $150 in postal certificates were found by police…”
We liked the way photos, mostly by other photographers, like Helen Levitt, B. Glinn, etc. are incorporated into scenes of daily life (which they were, of course) and come (back) to life…
We liked the Weegee photos scene from different angles, like from the spectator’s points of view…
We liked many of the drawings and more, much more…
Copied from the publisher’s website, conundrumpress.com:
Weegee: Serial Photographer
by Max de Radiguès and Wauter Mannaert
140 pages, 7×10 inches, b/w, paperback, $18
Translation by Aleshia Jensen
“7 Pages: Are Prices Going Up?”
“U.S.A. Is Warned…”
“Ten Firemen Overcome in Washington Market Blaze”
“Joe Balierwalter was just one of 10 firemen overcome while fighting a smoky blaze in the heart of Washington Market early today. The fire started in the basement of a three-story brick building occupied by Kraemer & Klie, banana dealers, at 373 Washington St. The firemen had a tough enough time getting their apparatus past the numerous trucks and drays that clog the market. But when they got into the cellar, they dropped like flies as 400 crates of bananas, wrapped in wet straw and burlap, threw off carbon monoxide gas. All the firemen were revived. PM Photo by Weegee.”
“Ickes Calls for All-Out Aid in Talk to City’s Biggest Crowd”
“…Secretary of the Interior, was cheered by the largest audience ever assembled in New York when he called for all-out aid to Britain in the fight to save democracy…”
“I Am an American Program Drew 750,000 to Central Park Mall.”
“Mayor LaGuardia wielded the baton.”
“Photos by Gene Badger, PM”
Photography is not a competition.
Or, maybe it is…
I don’t know.
When the Big Top Comes to Times Square
“Minnie the bear, who appears with her husband Bill in Larry Sunbrock’s Big Top Circus, knows when payday is – and gets in line early.”
“This is the ‘Big Top’ – first three-ring circus tent to be pitched in Manhattan for 100 years – in a former parking [lot back of the Roxy?]”
“‘Miss Victory,’ Eglie Zacchini, is shot out of a cannon at a speed of 360 feet a second. Weegee got this unusually difficult picture at a performance using a telephoto lens at 1/1000th of a second.”
“7. Human cannonball, Texas, 1947.
Protected by an asbestos suit, twenty-six-year-old Egle Zacchini, a daughter of the great family of human cannonballs, is shot from a cannon. The challenge for me arose from the fact that because of the difference in the speeds of sound and of light, I would miss my picture if I snapped my shutter exactly when I heard the bang. Instead, I had to guess at what fraction of a second after the charge was set off the performer would fly out of the barrel. It was an exercise in frustration, and I had to try three times in three different cities before I finally managed to get the shot reproduced here.” Cornell Capa Photographs, Edited by Cornell Capa and Richard Whelan, 1992
A lively Italian-American family earns living being shot from canons”
Photos by Cornell Capa… words by John Kobler
LIFE, April 26, 1948, pp. 111-116
3 points for CC, Egle Zacchini, is the correct spelling.
Minus 3 points for PM and Weegee, Eglie Zacchini is not the correct spelling.
Weegee photographed ‘Miss Victory,’ Ms. Zacchini, first, five years before CC, plus four points.
Weegee and CC made “unusually difficult pictures,” plus 50 points for both photographers.
Silly bear caption, plus 1.5 points.
CC’s “great family of human cannonballs,” plus 150 points.
Weegee’s three circus photos were an entire page in PM, plus 10 points.
CC’s photos, about seven, were in Life… plus 15 points.
Weegee’s photo was made in NYC, plus 5 points.
CC’s photo was made in Texas, minus 5 points. (WTF? – editor’s note.)
CC’s honesty and humility about having to try three times… plus 100 points.
Quality and variety of CC’s photos… plus 200 points.
Round one goes to Cornell Capa!