Monday, June 12, 2006

'Unknown Weegee,' on Photographer Who Made the Night Noir

By HOLLAND COTTER @ New York Times
Photographs by Weegee/International Center of Photography

WATCHMAN, what of the night?

"Whadda you kidding? It's a zoo out there. Two deli stickups at 12 on the dot; one of the perps getting plugged. I got the picture. Roulette joint bust on East 68th. Society types. You shoulda seen the penguins run. Three a.m.: Brooklyn. Car crash. Kids. Bad."

"Four a.m., bars close. Guys asleep in Bowery doorways. But just before dawn is the worst: despair city. The jumpers start, out the windows, off the roof. I can't even look. So that's the night, New York. Ain't it grand? What a life."

The imagined speaker is Arthur Fellig, better known, and very well known, as Weegee (1899-1968). From the 1930's into the 1950's, he was a photographer for New York tabloids, the kind of papers Ralph Kramden might have read. Tireless, loquacious, invasive, he cruised the wee hours. For him the city was a 24-hour emergency room, an amphetamine drip.


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