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“An Old Faded Photograph”; Rex Griffin; Decca (5269 B); Publication date: March 2, 1936

In a “special feature presentation of the American Art Festival, the symposium on photography,” in the “first annual American Art Festival,” about a dozen photographers answered and discussed the perennial question, “What Is Modern Photography?” It was held at MoMA and broadcast on WNYC, on either October 20th or 30th, 1950.

An audio recording is here:

NYC Municipal Archives


It was moderated by Edward Steichen, “Director of the Department of Photography MOMA.” The “top ranking” photographers who were present (Margaret Bourke-White, Walker 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, and Edward Weston.

“Your Photograph Is All I Have (While Somebody Else Has You)”; Ralph Haines; Hoffman; Romeo (1138-B); October 1929

At 1:16:39 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:

…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.

And 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 sent 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 laughter and applause]…

Lassie, Unidentified Photographer.

“A Faded Photograph”; Whispering Jack Smith; Charles Kenny; Nick Kenny; Richard Howard; Decca (3437 B); September 13, 1940

PM, June 2, 1944, pp.12-13 (photos by Weegee and Arthur Leipzig)

Screenshot,, (photo by Ansel Adams)

(Just a name and a sliver of a silver gelatin print, “Woman Shot from Cannon, New York, 1943.”)

Screenshot from of exhibition checklist from

“My Man, 1941” – 95.1943 is online

“Tenement Fire, 1939” – 96.1943 is online

“Woman Shot from Cannon, New York, 1943” – 696.1943 is online

“Art in Progress: 15th Anniversary Exhibitions: Photography” at MoMA, May 24 – September 17, 1944

To be continued…



Art in Progress: 15th Anniversary Exhibitions: Photography
May 24–September 17, 1944
Weegee at MoMA, in NYC.

“FELLIG, Arthur (Weegee). American, born Austria 1900.
Brooklyn School Children See Gambler Murdered in Street. (225.42)
Oct. 8, 1941. Given anonymously.
*Tenement Fire, Brooklyn. Dec.14,1939. ILL. p.158. (96.43)
My Man, N.Y.C. 1941. (95.43)
Woman Shot from Can[n]on, N.Y.C. 1943. (696.43)
Above 3 prints Purchase Fund.
Opening Night at the Opera, N.Y.C.1944. Given anonymously.

All info and images from

Two years in a row: 1943, 1944 at MoMA, in NYC…

PM Daily, newspaper, 1940
PM Daily, newspaper, 1940
“About to start his mural for the Museum of Modern Art, Orozco divides panels into blocks.
Orozco never draws a completed sketch on his walls, never makes a full-size cartoon. Above shows him studying his design (Dive and Bomber Tank) and contemplating the wall. The public is invited to watch him work.”
PM Daily, newspaper, 1940
PM Daily, newspaper, 1940
PM Daily, newspaper, 1940
PM, June 19, 1940



Modern Art Museum
Gets Fresco Mural

It took the Museum of Modern Art to add spice to the Art Season last May when it rolled three freight cars and 20 centuries of Mexican art into Manhattan. No sooner had the pepper got off the public’s tongue than the art chefs decided to provide a bit of dessert.
Yesterday came the announcement that Mexican Mura1ist Jose Clemente Orozco, no stranger in these parts, had been coaxed to leave one wall that engaged him in Mexico, and tackle another wall on the third floor of the Museum of Modern Art.
Planned as an extra feature to the Mexican exhibition, the public will be permitted to watch for the next few weeks the technique of true fresco develop under the hand of a master.

A Mural Is Born

For a month, soft-voiced, dark-skinned Orozco has been cooped up behind bare walls of a mid-town hotel, fiddling with designs. Finally, scratches of electric-charged forms and volumes evolved on a small sheet of ordinary drawing paper.
The completed work, called Dive Bomber and Tank, will try to convey the essence of war destruction.
Unlike most of the walls Orozco has worked on, the Museum’s are divided into six removable panels which can be sent on tour to other cities. Three feet wide by nine feet high, each plaster slab weighs 500 pounds. It took Orozco and his assistant, Lewis Rubinstein, three weeks to prepare the plaster before painting could be started. Using permanent colors mixed in water, working on a wet section every day – cross-wise fashion from top left to right – Orozco hopes to get the job finished by mid-July.

The Museum of Modern Art’s portable mural will be Orozco’s fourth in the U. S. A. Others are in Manhattan’s New School for Social Research, Pomona College, at Claremont, Cal. and Dartmouth College.
Orozco is one of the few Mexican painters who have not studied in Europe. Eager to be an architect, he didn’t get around to his art until 1909, when he was 26. Intolerant even then of the pretty, sun-lit school of painting, Orozco expressed his contempt by painting prostitutes, night life, used dark, lurid colors. To this day he has never painted a landscape.
As the result of encountering some Mexican dynamite when he was 17, Orozco has no left hand, is partly deaf, and wears thick glasses. Peering through them, he says:
“I paint the today feeling. Anything made with passion, interest will last.”- E. S.

MoMA, 2015

Fellig the Zellig, in a Cartier-Bresson – Lisette Model sandwich, with a side order of (largely) European Modernism…

A Weegee photo in the exhibition of the Thomas Walther Collection of more than 300 photos: “one of the most important acquisitions [made in 2001] in the history of The Museum of Modern Art, a collection of rare photographs made between the two world wars…”

Great essay: “In the Police Wagon, in the Press, and in The Museum of Modern Art” – is here: pdf.

More info on the exhibition is here.
Cool Walther collection website is here.


Some of the cool conservation-related things on the object:photo website would be useful and helpful with explanation and interpretation, like the “paper material” page, and even the “surface” page is a little opaque for us amateurs…

(Although Weegee’s Frank Pape photo is obviously the highlight of the Thomas Walther collection, if not the entire MoMA photography collection, it doesn’t really fit in with the more self-consciously modernist and “experimental” photos…)

Screenshot from MoMA website.

It’s always nice to see the back of a photo on a museum website (or exhibition). Who’s handwriting is that? (It resembles a handwriting that is on the back of several other Weegee photos, and is always as inaccurate as this.) The Photo-Representatives stamp was probably used in the mid 1950s, and presumably not stamped by Weegee. (Perhaps just a copy negative was known in the 1980s.) What is the significance of the pink paper?

Naked City, pp. 166-167 (Pape and Gold)

At dawn on the Lower East Side, a few days before the Frank Pape photo was made, Weegee made three classic photos in the “Death Strikes a Truck Driver at Dawn… And the Living Suffer” story, published in PM on September 7, 1944. The Frank Pape photo was among the last “crime” photos (the precision of the composition reflects many, approximately 9, years of “practice”) that Weegee ever made in New York City (of course he made a few “crime” photos in L.A. a few years later and on the movie tour in 1950). The Frank Pape photo was one of the last “Weegee” photos that Weegee made… On November 22, 1944 a photo of Abraham Gold (charged with murdering his wife) was published in PM; on January 31, 1945 a photo of two alleged basketball bribers was published in PM. And that’s all folks… The rest of his photos (about 25) in PM were made mostly at the Metropolitan Opera, Times Square, and Sammy’s. They were about the opera, Frank Sinatra, elections, orphans, a storm, and the war… (and Weegee himself). The end… or a beginning…

One of many photographers photographing the photograph…
MoMA, 2015

PM Daily, June 2, 1944
A Weegee Gets Attention At Museum of Modern Art
The big picture at lower right is the center of attraction in Weegee’s section of the Art in Progress photo exhibition now on view at the Museum of Modern Art…

Weegee Daily, June 2, 2013
A Weegee Gets No Attention At Museum of Modern Art
Deservedly Dieter Roth did… And Claes and Andy and…
(When was the last time photographs, in a museum, received such physical and comical attention, with or without a “No Photography” sign…)
Maybe, for a few brief moments we can not be as myopic as we usually are; we can lift a our Weegee blinders, our Weegee colored glasses, for a few seconds… What else was going on in the world on June 2, 1944?
Locally, a chlorine “heavy greenish-yellow” gas leak effected hundreds in Brooklyn… And more importantly:
And most importantly, a roller-skating extravaganza!

To be continued…

Two Weegee photos at MoMA, with context, September 3, 2011

Bizarre… the movie theater distortion photo (ca. 1955) was a “recent acquisition”… a Weegee (Governor Dewey and photographers) photo next to anonymous Signal Corps photos, Dmitri Baltermants, anonymous New York Times photos, and adjacent to an entire wall full of vernacular photos made by an “Unknown Photographer,” (another recent acquisition)… Weegee as modernist; Weegee as photojournalist… thought I was in another museum… for a moment or two…

to be continued…