Naked City

“Weegee the fabulous photographer whose book “Naked City” helped inspire the late Mark Hellinger to produce the exciting screen opus of the same title, sits in Lindys and waves a card he received from India, a belated greeting from Photographer Margaret Bourke-White. “She’s been back for months and it arrived today,” announced the disheveled Weegee.”

(A series of blog posts that contain “Naked City” related material to commemorate the fabulous new printing of the book “Naked City.”)

Weegee’s Naked City

Arthur Fellig, dit Weegee, photographe ukrainien immigré aux États-Unis au début du XXème siècle, s’est fait connaitre pour ses clichés des bas-fonds de New York, qu’il arpentait de nuit, appareil photo en main, de scènes de crimes en cabarets érotiques. Publié pour la première fois en 1945 et tout juste réédité, Weegee’s Naked City réunit des dizaines de clichés pris entre les dernières heures de la nuit et les premières heures du jour : des amants sur la plage, des gens observant une scène de meurtre depuis leurs fenêtres, le service de Pâques dans une église de Harlem… avec le style cru qui l’a rendu célèbre. Une oeuvre fondatrice dans l’histoire du photojournalisme.
Weegee’s Naked City, éditions Damiani, 292 pages, 36 €

Weegee’s Naked City

Arthur Fellig, known as Weegee, a Ukrainian photographer who immigrated to the United States at the start of the 20th century, became known for his shots of the New York shallows, which he surveyed at night, camera in hand, scenes from crimes in erotic cabarets. First published in 1945 and just reissued, Weegee’s Naked City brings together dozens of shots taken between the last hours of the night and the early hours of the day: lovers on the beach, people watching a murder scene from their windows, Easter service in a Harlem church… with the vintage style that made it famous. A founding work in the history of photojournalism.
Weegee’s Naked City, éditions Damiani, 292 pages, 36 € via google translate

Screenshot of

Weegee: Photos of a seedy underworld

A loner and an outlier, Weegee took news snaps of people on the margins – which went on to influence photographers after his death. A new reissue of his classic photobook Naked City reveals the extraordinary power of his images.

By Oliver Lunn
March 4, 2020

Arthur Fellig was a freelance news photographer famed for his gritty crime pictures of New York City in the late 1930s and 40s. Known as Weegee, perhaps a wordplay on ‘OuiJa board’ because of his prescient arrivals at the scenes of emergencies, he appeared like a character from a Hollywood film noir – cigar between his lips, cartoonishly big camera flash around his neck, a vocabulary that referred to dead bodies as “stiffs”…

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!

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