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Naked City


“Sherry Lynn Flip,” by Slam Stewart Trio; Errol Garner; Stewart; Harold West; Publication date: September 7, 1945


Daily Argus, September 7, 1945

…”Naked City,” by Arthur Fellig, is a collection of satiric photographs, showing a cross-section of life in New York…”

“…held on display for one week at the Public Library so that readers may have an opportunity to examine them before they are circulated.”
Daily Argus, September 7, 1945, p.4


“Blue, Brown, and Beige,” by Slam Stewart Trio; Errol Garner; Stewart; Harold West; Publication date: September 7, 1945


“Don’t Worry ‘Bout That Mule”; Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five; Louis Jordan; C. Stewart; W. Davis; D. Groaner; F. Moore; July 18, 1945


PM, July 18, 1945

From the Editor

Rave Notice

There’s a new book in the stores today by Weegee, who bills himself as “the famous” – and is.

It’s a book of pictures – pictures such as you’ve never seen before, except maybe in PM. it is called Naked City, published by Essential Books, sells for $4 – and is worth it…


“Buzz Me,” Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five; Louis Jordan; F. Moore; D. Baxter; July 18, 1945


PM, July 18, 1941

Wrong Number: At least that’s the expression on Rainbow’s face…


“Wrong Number”; Red River Dave; McEnery; The Texas Tophands; 1949


Uncle Moses, p. 125


Uncle Moses, p. 134


Uncle Moses; a novel, Sholem Asch (1880-1957), Isaac Goldberg (1887-1938), translator, 1920


“On a Sunday at Coney Island,” Gordon MacRae and the Cheerleaders; Carmen Dragon; Vernon Cross; Jeffrey Curtis, 1951

Celebrating the solstice with a trip to Coney Island in June… (And an early reference to “a naked city…”) “…Everything was permissible; the whole world intermingled.” Weegee, the war-time photographer, filled a centerfold with pictures and words of the “escapist crowd,” made on a Sunday at Coney Island… (Like a Stonehenge for midsummer sweltering city-dwellers…) The spread is a sequel of sorts to the previous years’ successful Coney centerfold: “Yesterday at Coney Island… Temperature 89… They Came Early, Stayed Late.” And a sprinkling of songs released in June 1941; possibly heard on the portable radios playing swing…


“She’s Love Crazy”, Tampa Red, Hudson Whittaker, June 1941

Coney Island Revisited… Pictures and Words by Weegee

I was one of 800,000 people – cops’ estimate – at Coney Island yesterday afternoon. It as an escapist crowd. Portable radios played swing instead of war news. Some planes flew over, but nobody paid much attention.

Most of the people arrived with bathing suits under their street clothes and undressed on the beach. A lot brought their lunches, too, and spread newspapers on sand to eat. It was 87 degrees when I took this picture.

First aid for ripped slacks. I don’t know how Mama happened to bring along her needle and thread, but I didn’t pose the picture. You don’t have to that to get amusing pictures at Coney. I go out every summer to photograph the crowds. They’re always the same – and always different. One difference from 1940 and yesterday was the number of soldiers in uniform on boardwalk looking over the gals on sand below.

Waiting three hours to get a picture of the official first lost child of the season when a man came over to the Park Department attendant with this and and, “Lost child.” Pretty soon his wild-eyed mother came up and took him away. The child was making such a rumpus, and the mother seemed so excited about it all, that I didn’t want to bother them to ask their names and address. PM Photos by Weegee

PM, June 9, 1941, pp. 16-17


“Sixth Avenue Express”, Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons, June 1941


“Rock Me Mama,” Art Tatum And His Band, Joe Turner, Jones, June 1941


“Lonesome Graveyard”, Art Tatum and His Band, Joe Turner, Jones, Williams, June 1941



Weegee, Naked City, 1945


PM, May 31, 1942, pp.8-9 (photo by Weegee)

Weegee, free-lance news photographer who drives around New York in search of pictures, got so many dirty looks during the first two weeks of gas rationing that he had a sign painter letter this card for the rack that used to hold his front license plate. Like one out of every 10 motorists in the East, Weegee has an X card.
PM, May 31, 1942, p.8


Extra! Weegee!, p. 19

Shrinking Violet Explains

New York – The envious looks of gasless former “Sunday Drivers” pierced the tender epidermis of “Weegee” noted New York freelance photographer as he toured the city while on the job today. To get rid of that uncomfortable feeling, “Weegee” mounted this explanation of gasoline expenditure on the front of his machine and immediately felt much better.
Credit Line (ACME) 5-24-42

Extra! Weegee!, p. 19


Screenshot, whitney.org


We’re the Sunday Drivers, Billy Murray’s Trio (Carl Mathieu, Monroe Silver and Murray), 1927

Weegee's book Naked City with a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge
Weegee, Naked City, 1945

Apparently the Brooklyn Bridge opened on this day, May 24th, in 1883… More importantly… Naked City opens with a noirish, scene-setting, landscape foto starring the Brooklyn Bridge and a bunch of buildings, lights, wet cobblestones, a star-free sky… Not a bad way to enter Manhattan and a perfect way to enter a book… big bridge… flash of lightning… a beginning… (One of the few people-free fotos in NC.)

Photo was published in the Daily News on Monday, July 29, 1940… On the same page as a map of Malta and a pair of photos: “Death From The Sky. This is the first foto of the bombing of Malta by Italian planes…” And “Prisoners Of War,” a long line of captured English soldiers marching… (A majority of the photos in Naked City can be connected to the war, in fact, Naked City is a portrait of Manhattan during wartime, the homefront.) Foto was published with a few different titles in different editions, including:

Striking Beauty
This remarkable foto shows a brilliant bolt of lightning apparently striking City Bank Farmer’s Trust Co. at 20 Exchange Place, during storm. The fotog shot foto on South St., near Brooklyn Bridge.
New York Daily News, July 29, 1940

Newspaper PM, article about Murder Inc. member or associate
PM, May 23, 1941, p. 9

“Up From the Slums, or How Young Knadles Nitzberg Made His Nark” by John Kobler

PM newspaper, Weegee photo of kids on fire escape
PM, May 23, 1941, p. 23

Record of a New York Day

“The hot weather last night took Weegee, the photographer, to the Lower East Side, where he found these children sleeping on a tenement fire escape at Irving and Rivington Streets. Weegee says he gave the kids $2 for ice cream, but their father took charge of the dough.”

Weegee's book Naked City
Weegee, Naked City, pp. 22-23

Tenement Penthouse

But the other fire escape is somewhat overcrowded… its not so bad sleeping that way… except when it starts to rain… then it’s back to the stuffy tenement rooms.”

[$2 had the same buying power as $38.15 in April 2021.]


Tenement Symphony,” Larry Clinton’s Bluebird Orch.; Kuller; Golden; Borne; Peggy Mann and Butch Stone, 1941


PM, May 23, 1941, p. 13 (photo by Gene Badger)

A Hot-Weather Fashion Preview by the Dead End Kids
Scene: East River. Time 3 p.m. Temperature: 90.7.


Weegee, Naked City, 1945, pp. 148-149

Shorty, the Bowery cherub, welcomed the New Year…


“Shorty, the Bowery Cherub, New Years Eve at Sammy’s Bar,” 1943
Barth, Miles, Weegee’s World, New York: Bullfinch Press, 1997, p.139


“Shorty, the Bowery cherub, welcomed the New Year…”
Weegee, Naked City, New York: Essential Books, 1945, p. 148


“Shorty, the Bowery cherub, welcomes the New Year…”
Weegee, Naked City, Cincinnati, Ohio: Zebra Picture Books, 1948


PM, December 24, 1940


(Only six hours, and one time zone, seperates Weegee Creek, OH, and Santa Claus, IN…)


Weegee, Naked City, 1945, pp.158-159

Not so long ago I, too, used to walk on the Bowery, broke, “carrying the banner.” The sight of a bed with white sheets in a furniture store window, almost drove me crazy. God… a bed was the most desirable thing in the world.

In the summer I would sleep in Bryant Park… But when it got colder I transferred to the Municipal Lodging House… I saw this sign on the wall there. A Sadist must have put u=it up. I laughed to myself… what Cash and Valuables… I didn’t have a nickel to my name, but I was a Free Soul… with no responsibilities…

Slumber-time in a mission… it’s Christmas.

FIREMEN FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
A sign across the front of this seven-story loft building near the Brooklyn Bridge instructed firemen to “Simply Add Boiling Water.” However, cold water was all they had, and anyway it seemed to them that it win this case it might prove more effective. AP Wirephoto.
San Francisco Chronicle, December 21, 1943, p.7

THE FIREMEN FOLLOWED DIRECTIONS
Although the water they used was cold, New York firemen fighting a blaze in a seven-story building did their best to follow directions on a sign on the building: “Simply Add Boiling Water.” (A.P. Wirephoto)
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday Morning, December 21, 1943, p.6


Naked City, 1945, pp.52-53

3. FIRES…
The surprising thing about New York families, living as they do in such crowded conditions, is that they still manage to crowd in pets like dogs, cats, parrots, which they always try to save at fires. At one fire, I saw a woman running out holding a cardboard box with a couple of snakes inside. I questioned her. (It was none of my business, but I’m curious about people)… she told me she was a dancer who used the snakes in her act…
Naked City, 1945, p.52


Minicam, 1947

The Sign across the center of the building refers to the frankfurters, not the firemen! Weegee put his Speed Graphic with 5 1/4″ lens on a tripod and three No. 3 flashbulbs on extensions. Super Panchro Pres – 1/10 at F:8
Minicam, 1947


Third Avenue El, (3 second excerpt), by Davidson (Carson), 1950

The Eye of Fate

Did New Yorkers look completely different 50 years ago than they do today? Where have those kinds of faces gone?

There is cruelty in Weegee’s flash, but there is also harsh beauty. Sometimes it is the almost abstract beauty of light against dark, as in his photograph of a fire at the Hygrade Frankfurters factory — called “Simply Add Boiling Water.” But sometimes it is the raw beauty of emotion that Weegee captures in his subjects.

The faces themselves can hardly be called beautiful. They seem at first to belong not merely to another time but to another world, as remote from the present as the portrait of a Renaissance pope. It is human flesh, but arranged by a rough, unfamiliar hand. It takes awhile, wandering among Weegee’s photographs, listening to a pair of old men remembering Times Square in 1942, to realize that an old-fashioned face still lurks in each of us, if only a Weegee were there to see it when it surfaced.
The New York Times, December 5, 1997, p.30