New Book Celebrates Photojournalist Weegee And The Art Of Murder

Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig. For a decade from 1935 the Austro-Hungarian photojournalist made a name for himself recording crime scenes, criminals and corpses on the streets of New York City, principally on the Lower East Side. In doing so he invented a new form of reportage: lurid and provocative, his pictures were snapped up by the grocery store tabloids of the day: True, Hush and Scandals. "The bloodier and sexier the better," Weggee later noted in his autobiography. "[The] millions of readers had to have their daily blood bath and sex potion to go with their breakfast."

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

But his pictures, shot in black-and-white using a press photographer’s standard issue 4x5 camera, were also brimming with humanity, style and anthropological currency. Commenting on one image "Gang Gets Revenge" (1939) he wrote "a just shot gangster, lying in the gutter, well-dressed in his dark suit and pearl hat, hot off the griddle..." Yearn too far for the trappings of America's new consumerist culture – smart suit, silk scarf, quality shoes – they seemed to suggest, and it could come back and bite you.

Most Popular

Weegee stayed one-step ahead of his rivals by tuning in to police radio: his nickname was a phonetic reading of 'ouija', reflecting his spooky ability to show up at crime scenes while the blood was still running. Later he'd make his own short films and collaborate with Stanley Kubrick. Today his cultural legacy is inarguable: it lives on in L.A. Confidential, Goodfellas, The Sopranos and, most recently, Gangster Squad.

A new book Weegee: Murder Is My Business takes the form of a 264-page hardbacked dossier and follows its subject’s transformation from jobbing freelancer to photo-detective. Compiled by Brian Wallis, chief curator at the International Centre of Photography in New York, it’s compelling, voyeuristic, ocassionally horrible, stuff. But it's always shot with style.
 

Weegee: Murder Is My Business is published on 30 September by Prestel Books; £30.

What do you think?

Mascots film
Culture
Share
Watch An Exclusive Clip From Netflix's Hilarious New Film About A Mascot Competition
The comedy packs serious lols​​
Blackberry Phone
Culture
Share
Blackberry Is Shutting Down Its Phone Business
​R.I.P ​​QWERTY
Kanye West
Culture
Share
Kanye Encourages Audience To Shout "F**k Taylor Swift"
Whilst performing in her hometown
Culture
Share
Why Everyone Is Taking Sides On This Controversial New Playboy Photo Shoot
It's more complicated than you think
Culture
Share
This Glorious Mexican Beer Ad Trolled The S**t Out Of Donald Trump
Oh, and it aired during the first presidential debate
Culture
Share
Benedict Cumberbatch Sang Onstage With Pink Floyd's David Gilmour
The pair sang 'Comfortably Numb'
Mark Walhberg
Culture
Share
Mark Wahlberg Talks Success, Fatherhood And Burgers
A quick chat with the Deepwater Horizon actor​
Apple HQ Battersea
Culture
Share
Apple Is Setting Up A HQ In One Of London's Most Iconic Buildings
Welcome to Battersea, America​
Film
Share
Disney Is Remaking The Lion King Because Nothing Left In This World Is Sacred
Jon Favreau: step away from our childhoods​
Justin Vernon
Culture
Share
Album Review: 22, A Million By Bon Iver
​Bon Iver's new album has a spring in its step​