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Naked City

Photography is not a competition.
Or, maybe it is.
I don’t know.


Henri Cartier-Bresson, “The Decisive Moment,” 1952. pp. 42-43

p. 42. “New York, 1947. Easter Sunday in Harlem.” (presumably Leica, 35mm neg.)
p. 43. “New York, 1947. Midnight on West 42nd Street.” (presumably Leica, 35mm neg.)


Weegee, “Naked City,” 1945, pp. 198-199

p. 198 [After death what?, Harlem], 1943-5 (presumably Speed Graphic, flash, about half of a 4×5 neg.)
p. 199 [East Sunday, Harlem, 1943-5] (presumably Speed Graphic, flash, 4×5 neg.)

HC-B scores a point and a half for making Harlem look like New Orleans and Times Square look like Amish country and for making midnight look like mid-afternoon.
Weegee scores many, many more points for making better photos; talking to, interacting with, and having fun with the subjects of his photos (there are so many people looking at the photographer and smiling, that it’s easy to imagine Weegee clowning around); writing captions/text; and championing racial equality.
The photo on page 198 was made on the steps of Mount Olivet Baptist Church: “The history of the struggle for racial justice and social reform in New York City cannot be written or fully understood without knowledge of this church.” 10 more points for Weegee!
Relevant and thought-provoking text in a photo – 2 points for Weegee!
Weegee was there first, two years before HC-B, 3 more points for Weegee!

(Since HC-B was on Weegee’s stomping grounds, this spread might be worthy of a comparison.)
The design/layout of this page spread of “The Decisive Moment” is unimaginative, minus 1 point for HC-B.
The design/layout of this page spread of “Naked City” is cool, plus 2 or 3 points for Weegee.

Round 1 goes to Weegee!

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Naked City, “A Run for the Money,” March 14, 1962

As this installation view shows, Lieutenant Parker’s office gallery has been rehung… Pickle Barrels, an informant, poses and snoozes below a pair of Weegee photos: “On the Roof,” August 1941 and [Murder of Carlo Tresca], January 1943…. Police officers working over dead men… In an episode of the T.V. series “Naked City” called: “A Run for the Money,” from March 14, 1962… Weegee on T.V…

Speaking of human cops…
Here is Detective Adam Flint using a typically unconventional method to solve a crime… with, more importantly a pair of Weegee photos (“On the Roof” and… a bandaged Frank Birskowsky on the Bowery?) tacked to the bulletin board in the squad room of the 65th Precinct on the TV series “Naked City.”
(“The Fingers of Henri Tourelle,” October 18, 1961)


“Naked City,” NY Art Book Fair, September 2017

Ralph Ingersoll’s copy of “Naked City”… not inscribed… second printing… leather and blue cloth binding… $2,000.

Last time we counted:
“Naked City”: 246 pages with 247 photos
78 photos were published in PM

(Freelance might be more accurate. There was advertising in PM from 1946-1948.)


Langston Hughes, Chicago Defender, December 8, 1945, p. 14

“And a wonderful, wonderful book with a brief Harlem section is Weegee’s “Naked City.” It’s just about the most dramatic and at times, amusing collection of photographs ever put together. It’s about New York – a swell book for photographers, amateur and professional, travellers, would-be-travellers, and anyone else who can see pictures. There’s a slight, incisive text which you don’t have to read, for Weegee’s photos say everything.”
Langston Hughes, Chicago Defender, December 8, 1945, p. 14


Langston Hughes, Chicago Defender, December 8, 1945, p. 14

Our summer interns have been busy, they just created a Naked City map…

NAKED CITY. Photographs and Text by “Weegee.” New York: Essential Books. (246 pages with 247 photos.)