Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Matinee: 'Weegee Tells How' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

22 March 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the twenty-fifth in our series of Saturday matinees today: Weegee Tells How.

This nine-minute wonder is all in Weegee's own voice with nothing but his photos gracing the screen. He explains there's nothing to it, really, like a kindly grandfather showing you how to drive a stick shift.

Ascher Fellig, as Weegee was known to his parents, emigrated to America from Hungary in 1909, Americanizing his name to Arthur. He acquired the nickname Weegee by getting to New York City crime scenes before the police, as if he had a Ouija board guiding him.

But he didn't need a Ouija board. He hung out at the police station every night until he acquired a portable police band radio to keep tabs on what was happening each night in the big city.

He would pick his shots, preferring celebrities, and arrive with his 4x5 Speed Graphic set at f16 and 1/200 second with a flashbulb ready to pop and focus set at 10 feet. The flash was indispensable for the night photography he practiced in the dark corners of 1930s and 1940s New York.

After getting the shot, he developed the film and made prints in the trunk of his car where he'd rigged up a darkroom to get the photos to the newspapers, which were his clients, as soon as possible.

Stiffs, as he calls them, were the best subjects because they didn't move and were good for two hours. Fires were the toughest. And editors, well, are editors.

The International Center of Photography, where his negatives are archived, exhibited a selection of his work in 2012 titled Weegee: Murder Is My Business.

His business advice may not be as relevant today as it once was but his way with people (convincing an incarcerated woman to let him take her picture for the papers rather than let them use her police mug shot) and his eye for the image (shooting a long shot of a corpse on the sidewalk below packed fire escapes of residents trying to cool off) is still worth the price of admission.

Especially when he tells you all about it himself.

BackBack to Photo Corners