PM, December 1, 1943, p. 16

“Proving the Cops Are Human
A look of grave concern crosses the face of this policeman as he watches an injured woman being removed from the Western Electric plant at 395 Hudson St. following explosion that killed two early yesterday.
Photo by Weegee, PM”

About 8 days after Weegee photographed “The Critic” (and about 5 days after photographing “How to Wreck a Tavern – Cold Sober!”) Weegee photographed “The Human Cop.”

About 8 Weegee photos of the Western Electric blast can be found in the extraordinary “Extra! Weegee” book…

The New York Times, November 30, 1943

The New York Times,December 1, 1943


New York Review of Books, December 6, 2018, Volume 65, Number 19, pp.44-45

“Shots in the Dark”
by Edward Kosner

Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos
Extra! Weegee: A Collection of 359 Vintage Photographs from 1929–1946 edited by Daniel Blau

Weegee’s people are generally funny-looking and badly dressed. Many of them are murdered—the blood pooling around their heads, some with their ankles oddly crossed as if they are taking a nap in the gutter. Their cars are wrecked, their tenements gutted by fire, their loved ones sobbing in the streets. Even their pets look morose. The rare happy ones are celebrating Hitler’s defeat or stampeding through the lobby of the Roxy Theatre in Times Square to score seats for Jimmy Dorsey’s big-band show. All of the pictures Weegee took with his Speed Graphic camera are in high-contrast black-and-white, like scenes from Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil.

He snapped his mesmerizing photographs in a sweaty frenzy between seventy and eighty years ago. There are two haughty dowagers accosted by a shabbily dressed drunk woman at the opening of the Metropolitan Opera; children sleeping on a fire escape in a slum; a man arrested for cross-dressing grinning and baring his thigh in the back of a paddy wagon; a panoramic mob filling every inch of sand at Coney Island; an anguished mother in a black kerchief staring at the tenement fire in which her daughter and granddaughter are perishing. These familiar images were captured by an immigrant working in the depths of the Depression and wartime for a couple of dollars per newspaper shot. The alchemy of time and evolving taste has transmuted more than a few of them into art.

Weegee was less concerned with art than with fame. “A picture is like a blintz,” he liked to say. “Eat it while it’s hot.” He was so obsessed with celebrity that he proclaimed himself Weegee the Famous when he was no more than a legend in his own mind. When his work and relentless self-promotion finally won him recognition, his photography veered off into idiosyncratic and schlocky tangents. The man whose images were in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art churned out tits-and-ass shots for a pair of men’s magazines called Hi and Ho!, which were each half the width of a regular magazine—the better to hide in a raincoat.

Self-taught and self-propelled, Weegee has a singular place in the pantheon of street photographers that includes such masters as Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Berenice Abbott, Robert Frank, Ruth Orkin, and Diane Arbus. Only Arbus routinely used flash, as Weegee did, to capture her menagerie of odd subjects, and none shot with Weegee’s Speed Graphic press camera. His prints were raw, sometimes overexposed, often repetitious. They have none of the austere serenity of Orkin’s pictures of snowy Central Park from her window or the creepy pathos of Arbus’s portrait of the young giant and his tiny parents in their claustrophobic flat or the finesse of Cartier-Bresson. Instead, Weegee’s punks and grotesque car wrecks…

It took two great books to get Weegee into the NY Review of Books

(We would enjoy a David Levine caricature of Weegee… In addition to being great caricaturists, apparently they both shared an affinity towards Coney Island: “Others have possessed this beach: Reginald Marsh, George Bellows, Weegee. But for a long time now it has belonged to David Levine… — Pete Hamill” from davidliveneart.)

“WEEGEE – THE FAMOUS, 1935–1960
October 18, 2018 – January 20, 2019.
Tuesday – Sunday 12:00 – 19:00.
Curator: Peter Baki”

“Weegee, The Famous, 1935 – 1960 is organised in the framework of the Hungarian Photomonth 2018. The exhibition has been realised in collaboration with the Institute for Cultural Exchange, Tübingen…”

104 great photos. Beautiful exhibition space. Looks like a great exhibition…

PM, August 27, 1941 (Fire photos by Irving Haberman)

Storm Ties Up Subways…5 Pages
This inferno-like scene is one of the results of tortential rains that wept New York, causing the worst subway tie-up in history. A lightning bolt hit a gas main in a subway excavation, dropped an auto into the resulting cave-in, stated a three-alarm fire… (PM Photo by Irving Haberman)”

“The Weather Bureau also termed 2.13 inches of rain in that brief spectacular on and one-half hours “extensive precipitation.”” p. 15

Weegee Has a Salon: Arthur Fellig, the night-prowling cameraman who turns in many of PM’s choicest pictures of fires, wrecks, rescues and crimes, is having a one-man show of his own at the Photo League, 31 E. 21st St. The exhibit will run through Sept. 6.”

Starting with one of the best archives in the world: The New York City Municipal Archives.

“The NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery provides research access to over 900,000 items digitized from the Municipal Archives’ vast holdings, including photographs, maps, motion-pictures and audio recordings.” NYCMA website.

Two Weegee things can be easily found: an 8×10 gelatin silver print (the front of a fire photo) and an audio recording (Captain Edward Steichen reading an amazing letter from Weegee at MoMA from WNYC) out of almost a million digitized objects…

Copied from the NYC Archives’ website:

MAC: Municipal Archives Collection
Record Identifier: mac_0493
Credit: Arthur Fellig (Weegee)
Subject: Fire Department
Subject: Fire fighting
Description: Engine and Hook & Ladders fighting fire in downtown loft or tenement. Container trucks at left.
Format: 8×10

(Would be nice to see the entire photo, uncropped, there are crop marks and perhaps other info that is cropped out, and the back of the photo is essential… (We (heart) watermarks.))

Screenshot from NYC MAC website.

The highlight of a panel discussion “What Is Modern Photography?,” October 20, 1950, that was a part of the first annual American Art Festival’s symposium on photography held in an auditorium at the Museum of Modern Art was Captain Edward Steichen (who gives a nice salute to WNYC) reading Weegee’s words, including an amazing letter from Weegee who was presumably in California at the time… At 1:16:50: “I can’t resist bringing in the fabulous Weegee…”
Essential listening…

Copied from the NYC Archives’ website:

WNYC: Radio, Film & TV
Record Identifier: MUNI-AART-1950-10-20-53319.7 LT1120 EQ
Catalog Number: LT1120
Title: What Is Modern Photography?
Series Title: WNYC American Art Festival
Date: 10/20/1950
Creator: WNYC Radio
Credit: Original recordings reformatted by New York Public Radio Archives (WNYC/WQXR) with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Subject: Photography.
Subject: Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.).
Subject: Museums.
Subject: Arts.
Subject: Art.
Type: Sound
Format: lacquer transcription disc
Language: English
Notes: Adobe Flash Player required to hear audio. [???]

Screenshot from NYC MAC website.

The 68 year old audio recording asks the question “What is Modern Photography” and answers the question “Why was Weegee the best Modern Photographer?” 🙂

From an old #weegeeweegeeweegee-classic blog post(s):

“What Is Modern Photography?” on

What is Modern Photography?

The great WNYC radio news blog posted an audio recording of a fascinating panel discussion, The 1950 WNYC American Art Festival, broadcast October 30, 1950. It was moderated by Edward Steichen. The photographers who were present (Margaret Bourke-White, Waker Evans, Gjon Mili, Lisette Model (too frightened to read her own words, so they were read by Steichen), Wright Morris, Homer Page, Irving Penn, Ben Shahn, Charles Sheeler, and Aaron Siskind) spoke in alphabetical order for about five minutes. Steichen talked about or quoted several photographers who were not present (Harry Callahan, Louis Faurer, Frederick Sommer, Weegee, Edward Weston). It’s unfortunate that Weegee wasn’t there. Nevertheless Steichen speaks of him fondly and Weegee’s more-or-less at the same table with the rest of the art photography gang…

It can be heard here:

At 30:20 minutes into the panel discussion, after (the deadly serious) Siskind and before (the deathly ill) Weston, Capt. Steichen speaks about then reads some of Weegee’s words… (here they are transcribed)

“…Our remaining guests are among those not present. I can’t resist bringing in the fabulous Weegee.
Who is the first press photographer to move from the field of spot news reporting and become a photographic commentator. Where his original and major claims to fame were police and fire pictures their stands recorded in Weegee’s two books, Naked City and Weegee’s People a fantastic procession of human foibles and emotion. If photography did not have Weegee in the United States of America we would surely have to invent him. I’ve picked out some quotes from some of Weegee’s sayings:

‘To me a photograph is a page from life, and that being the case, it must be real.’
‘Don’t forget about anything and everything else to be human, think, feel. When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you’re on the right track.’
‘One doesn’t just go up to strange men, women, children, elephants or giraffes and say look this way please, laugh, cry, show some emotion or go to sleep underneath a funeral canopy’, they would have called me crazy and called the cops who would have called the wagon with the guys in white and I would have wound up in the psychopathic ward in Bellevue Hospital in a straight jacket.’
‘[My or Press?] Pictures are different. The photographer must be on the scene at the split second of occurrence. Here’s my formula: Dealing as I do with human beings and I find them wonderful. I leave them alone, I let them be themselves, holding hands with the love light in their eyes, sleeping, or merely walking down the street. The trick is to be where people are. All one needs to do is to be on the spot, alert, and human. I think the secret is knowing what you want. I worked for years then there were no more gangsters, no really good murders, so I got a job with Vogue doing fashion photography. (laughter). They always send a girl along to make sure I didn’t steal the silverware. (laughter) So i got tired of fashion and so I went to Hollywood. I’ve appeared in five pictures as a street photographer. The greatest bit of casting since Lassie.” (much, much laughter and applause)…

Lassie, Unidentified Photographer…

Of course, like in most archives, with a bit of digging there are curiosities and/or treasures to be found:

Screenshot of tax photo of 5 Centre Market Place from the 1980s from NYMAC webite.

Screenshot from

Copied from

“Inscriptions verso (ink): The notice for Burglars Ball
Hospital took this notice

(stamped): [inscription partially obscured] photo sold for use in one Publication
[illeg.] not to be resold, loaned, [illeg.]
[illeg.] used for advertising purposes with [illeg.]
written permission.
photo by

This is intriguing… another “Burglar’s Ball” photo recently acquired by GEH…