Weegee: Remembering the American Photographer Who First Made Night Noir

Weegee: Remembering the American Photographer Who First Made Night Noir

Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee (1899-1968), was the son of an Austrian rabbi, who came with his family from Europe to New York City.  Independent-minded, for a time he aimlessly drifted around, did odd jobs and lived in the city’s flophouses.  Finally, he discovered photography, a revelation that transformed him into a man with an obsessive mission.  From the 1930’s through the mid-1940’s, Weegee was a freelance crime and street photographer for New York City tabloids, ceaselessly prowling inner-city streets during the graveyard shift.  He loved the darkest hours, because then he had the photographic turf all to himself, but also owing to the fact that the most evil of crimes are carried out at night, under the cover of darkness.

Always prepared, Weegee stalked the streets in a car equipped with a police radio, a typewriter, developing equipment, a supply of cigars and a change of underwear.  He was a one-man photo factory: he drove to a crime scene, took the pictures, developed the film in his car trunk and delivered finished the prints himself.  Weegee was well aware of social problems in the city, documenting the struggles of people living through the Depression, the sufferings of people who experienced segregation and violent racial bias attacks, and the hardships of indigent immigrants packed into already poverty-stricken, desolate and crime-ridden neighborhoods of the city, especially the Lower East Side.

Eventually, the glamor of Hollywood beckoned, and Weegee moved there in 1946, where he worked in the film industry as an actor, consultant and photographer.  He socialized  with big-name Hollywood stars and got small acting parts in films, but he never really felt like he fit into what he called “The Land of the Zombies” and moved back to Manhattan in 1951, where he lived until his death in 1968.

Weegee: The American Photographer Who First  Made Night Noir

Weegee Speaks About His Career in Photography

Weegee: A Tribute to Arthur Fellig

Slide Show: Weegee/The American Photographer Who First Made Night Noir

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