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Weegee the Famous: The Shock of Tabloid Photography

Whatcom Museum of History and Art
Bellingham, WA Sept 26-Jan 30, 2005

Weegee – The Critic
Weegee (Arthur Fellig), The Critic (1943), photograph [Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA, Sept 26-Jan 30]

Weegee the Famous was a popular American photo-journalist in the 1930s and 40s. Born Arthur Fellig, Weegee, was a Ukrainian whose family immigrated to New Yorks Lower East Side when he was eleven. After working in the news field for some length, Weegee became a freelance photographer and took some of the most innovative and telling photographs of his time. His work was frequently published in the popular tabloid press.

Weegee was fascinated by the tenuous life lurking on the dark streets of New York City during the night. There was no glamour in Weegees black and white close-up images. Rather, crime, disasters, and other dramatic events were his subjects. With the help of a police radio and a typewriter, he was able to capture the raw reality of the urban underground from his portable office conveniently located in the back of a 1938 Chevy.

Weegee – Mother and Son
Weegee (Arther Felling), Mother and Son (undated), photograph [Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, WA, Sept 26-Jan 30]

His talent revealed truths such as those depicted in the image, Anthony Esposito, Accused Cop Killer. From celebrities and socialites to gangsters and murderers, Weegee exposed all levels of society. But unlike todays paparazzi, he often captured his unsuspecting victims by surprise. Weegees approach to photography involved the use of a flash, which was unique at the time.

The exhibit will also feature a selection of Weegees more artistic trick photographs, including a kaleidoscopic image of performer Charlie Chaplin. Paralleling Weegees career was the Film Noir genre, which also took a gritty look at life on the streets. To complement the exhibit, the Whatcom Museum is featuring a historical film series, Dark Passions: The Impact of Film Noir, during October.

Allyn Cantor

 Mon, Sep 13, 2004