Saturday, 24 January 2009


As legend tells it, Arthur Felig earned the nickname Weegee during his early career as a freelance press photographer in New York City. His apparent sixth sense for crime often led him to a scene of crime well ahead of police. Observers likened this sense, actually derived from tuning his radio to the police frequency, to the Ouija board, the popular fotune-telling game. Spelling it phonetically, Felig took Weegee as his professional name.

Born in Austria in 1899, Weegee emigrated to America with his family and grew up in a tenement on Lower East Side. Around 1923, he joined Acme Newspictures as a darkroom technician, occasionally filling in as a news photographer. Later, around 1935, armed with his Speed Graphic camera and working out of Police Headquarters in lower Manhattan, he began a career as a freelance press photographer. His images of dead gangsters and his own flamboyant personality established his reputation as NYC's resident "crime photographer," a personna he nutured to the point of ultimately stamping the backs of his own pictures, "Credit Photo by Weegee the Famous."

His territory expanded from the Bowery to Greenwich Village to the activities of the uptown social elite and his clients included such periodicals as Life and Vogue as well as the legitimate newspapers, the daily tabloids and everything in between.

A Weegee trademark 'dead body'

To avoid the heat of summer - children sleeping on a fire-escape

Dwarf in bar

Transvestite in police wagon
Weegee also worked in Hollywood as a filmmaker, performer, and technical consultant. His 1945 book Naked City was the inspiration for the 1947 film The Naked City. The Public Eye (1992), starring Joe Pesci, was based on the man himself. He died in New York in 1968.

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