(From Wikipedia, the free
Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig (June 12, 1899 -
December 26, 1968), an American photographer and photojournalist, known
for his stark black and white street photography.
Weegee was born Usher Fellig in Złoczew, near Lemberg, Austrian-Galicia
(later known as Złoczów, Poland, and now Zolochiv, Ukraine). His name was
changed to Arthur when he came with his family to live in New York in
1909, fleeing anti-semitism.
Fellig's nickname was a phonetic rendering of Ouija, due to his frequent
arrival at scenes only minutes after crimes, fires or other emergencies
were reported to authorities. He is variously said to have named himself
Weegee, or to have been named by either the girls at Acme or by a police
He is best known as a candid news photographer whose stark black-and-white
shots documented street life in New York City. Weegee's photos of crime
scenes, car-wreck victims in pools of their own blood, overcrowded urban
beaches and various grotesques are still shocking, though some, like the
juxtaposition of society grandes dames in ermines and tiaras and a
glowering street woman at the Metropolitan Opera (The Critic, 1943),
turned out to have been staged.
In 1938, Fellig was the only New York newspaper reporter with a permit to
have a portable police-band shortwave radio. He maintained a complete
darkroom in the trunk of his car, to expedite getting his free-lance
product to the newspapers. Weegee worked mostly at night; he listened
closely to broadcasts and often beat authorities to the scene.
Most of his notable photographs were taken with very basic press
photographer equipment and methods of the era, a 4x5 Speed Graphic camera
preset at f/16, @ 1/200 of a second with flashbulbs and a set focus
distance of ten feet. He had no formal photographic training but was a
self-taught photographer and relentless self-promoter. He is sometimes
said not to have had any knowledge of the New York art photography scene;
but in 1943 the Museum of Modern Art included several of his photos in an
exhibition. He was later included in another MoMA show organized by Edward
Steichen, and he lectured at the New School for Social Research. He also
undertook advertising and editorial assignments for Life and Vogue
magazines, among others.
His acclaimed first book collection of photographs, Naked City (1945),
became the inspiration for a major 1948 movie The Naked City, and later
the title of a pioneering realistic television police drama series and a
band led by the New York experimental musician John Zorn.
Weegee also made short 16mm films beginning in 1941 and worked with and in
Hollywood from 1946 to the early 1960s, both as an actor and a consultant.
He was an uncredited special effects consultant and credited still
photographer for Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I
Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. His accent was one of the
influences for the accent of the title character in the film, played by
In the 1950s and 60s, Weegee experimented with panoramic photographs,
photo distortions and photography through prisms. He made a famous
photograph of Marilyn Monroe in which her face is grotesquely distorted
yet still recognizable. For the 1950 movie The Yellow Cab Man, Weegee
contributed a sequence in which automobile traffic is wildly distorted; he
is credited for this as "Weegee" in the film's opening credits. He also
traveled widely in Europe in the 1960s, and took advantage of the liberal
atmosphere in Europe to photograph nude subjects.