Weegee or Arthur Fellig (June 12, 1899 – December 26, 1968)
If Diane Arbus had one big Photographic influence it was this man, Arthur Fellig, also known as Weegee. WeeGee, like so many of his contemporaries, was born in the old Austrian Hungarian Imperial Provence of Central and Eastern Europe, which has since been split up. His homeland would now be Ukraine, but back then it was a hotbed of Revolution, which was soon to become a war zone.
After getting out, and moving to New York with his family, WeeGee didn’t waste much time in finding a job. He was entrepreneurial from the beginning, starting off by taking pictures of children riding his Ponies, then moving on to become an assistant to a photographer, then from this to self employment.
If WeeGee was a solicitor today, he’d be known as an ambulance chaser. And he’d probably be banned. Self employment began with him going down to the local police station and listening in to the police radios, and instead of emergency services he started with police cars. He would go to the scene of the crime and take what in today’s world would be considered disturbing shots. He worked from the boot of his car where he had a portable dark room. His photos may have been tough viewing, but the papers of yesteryear lapped them up, and this gave him a start.
Although this was what he was to become known for, he had a wide range of artistic abilities. He began to dabble with short films, and taking different kinds of photographs not normally associated with his style. Towards the end of his career he even started working in film with Stanley Kubrick. He is someone to study in relation to events of carnage not normally covered today, but whether we like it or not, are part of everyday life.
Camera: a 4×5 Speed Graphic camera preset at f/16 at 1/200 of a second, with flashbulbs and a set focus distance of ten feet
Where they worked: New York
Strengths: Very simply he took the photos no one else would, and carved a niche out of it.
Weaknesses: Although he was bold, a lot of the grand photos of people of society were later found to be staged. His equipment was basic and this probably stunted his development
Quote: In my particular case I didn’t wait ’til somebody gave me a job or something, I went and created a job for myself—freelance photographer. And what I did, anybody else can do. What I did simply was this: I went down to Manhattan Police Headquarters and for two years I worked without a police card or any kind of credentials. When a story came over a police teletype, I would go to it. The idea was I sold the pictures to the newspapers. And naturally, I picked a story that meant something