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Past Exhibition

  • Weegee, A Stitch in Time—at Coney Island, June 9, 1941. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.
  • Weegee, [Billie Dauscha and Mabel Sidney, Bowery entertainers, New York], December 4, 1944.
    © Weegee/International Center of Photography
  • Weegee, Simply Add Boiling Water, December 19, 1943. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.
  • Weegee, [Afternoon crowd at Coney Island, Brooklyn], July 21, 1940. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.
  • Weegee, [Weegee at his typewriter in the trunk of his 1938 Chevy], ca. 1943. © Weegee/International Center of Photography.

Weegee: Murder Is My Business

JANUARY 20–SEPTEMBER 2, 2012

Naked City:
Weegee and
Urban Disorder

 

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Documentary Truth

Weegee's view of urban life was governed by his occupation: daily newspapers demanded dramatic, newsworthy events. As a result, he often depicted the city as a seething and chaotic web of crime and violence. He exposed aspects of the city—even whole neighborhoods—that were strange and unfamiliar, except to those who lived there, and the eruptive events in his work seemed at times fearful and alienating. Yet, in his writing and photography for the liberal daily newspaper PM and in his brilliant editing and tough­talking captions for his 1945 photobook Naked City, Weegee gradually developed a more nuanced and truly unique perspective on city life. Against the 1930s documentary conventions of social concern and activist reform, Weegee offered a more brutal realism that accepted life as it came and celebrated its carnivalesque variety. His pictures, particularly in Naked City, voyeuristically surveyed the private parts of the city, looking impassively at daily misfortune and squalor, like tenement dwellers sleeping outside on their fire escapes, but also engaging sentimentally with the everyday spectacles of parties, parades, premieres, and kids playing in the spray from fire hydrants. The pain and hard reality of everyday life in late­-Depression New York had its special forms of pleasure and release, which, for Weegee, were exemplified in the secret joys of the night or the weekend utopia of Coney Island. There, Weegee seems to say, those hardened and lonely city dwellers could unmask themselves and, even in the presence of one another, stand naked.

Current Exhibitions

Current Exhibitions

On view through May 4: Capa in Color and What Is a Photograph?