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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

A Dip Into The Archives: Weegee

A Dip Into The Archives: Weegee

Weegee: f/8

Weegee, The Genius of the Camera, ca. 1938. © International Center of Photography/Getty Images, Courtesy International Center of Photography, New York

Weegee, The Genius of the Camera, ca. 1938. © International Center of Photography/Getty Images, Courtesy International Center of Photography, New York

Written by John Hutt

Weegee’s photographic advice was reportedly something to the effect of “F/8 and be there”. This statement is a perfect, but probably apocryphal summary of one of the most important photographers of the first half of the 20th century.

Born Usher Fellig, later Americanized to Arthur Fellig, Weegee took the ‘be there’ portion of his advice to heart. He earned the name Weegee as an alternate spelling of Ouija, because of his preternatural ability to get to the scene, and because it does not really make sense that ‘Ouija’ should spell Weegee. He must have some kind of supernatural power, always the first on the scene, getting shots no one else would ever manage to get then selling them to the papers mere hours after the fact. In reality he was sleeping in his car listening to the police scanner and developing pictures in a makeshift darkroom in the back of his car. Although, ask Weegee how he ended up on the right bloc at the right time and he would mention a vague sense that something was going to happen, but then again, there were few times Weegee wasn’t working. Stay up all night and always have your camera ready is a great way to get the shot. The fact that for his early work Weegee was lugging around a huge 4x10 Speed Graphic Press Camera makes his rapid unplanned shots that much more impressive.

1018_1993: Weegee, [Bystanders looking at blanket-covered body of woman trampled to death in excursion-boat stampede, New York], August 18, 1941. © Weegee/ International Center of Photography

1018_1993: Weegee, [Bystanders looking at blanket-covered body of woman trampled to death in excursion-boat stampede, New York], August 18, 1941. © Weegee/ International Center of Photography

Like what you read? See his full feature in issue No. 16 Chaos, pages 320-329

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