Jan 20: Weegee

A new show at ICP highlights the photographer’s tabloid career.


He once boasted of having covered 5,000 murders, though the legendary crime-scene photographer Weegee often turned his camera on the spectators, not the victims, and found dark humor in the unlikely pairing of street ads and gore. Born in 1899, Usher Fellig rebranded himself Weegee for his ability to predict stories. Of course, that prowess was abetted by the police radio he had hooked up in his one-room New York apartment on Centre Market Place, directly across the street from police headquarters. “He was not plugged into art photography,” says Brian Wallis, the chief curator at the International Center of Photography in New York, where “Weegee: Murder Is My Business” opens this month (through September 2). “But his technical expertise led him to play with experimental forms of composition that fit right in with avant-garde approaches.” Culled from ICP’s vast Weegee archive, which includes his camera, fedora, and press pass, the exhibition spotlights about 120 photographs from 1935 to 1946—the height of his tabloid career. As part of the show, Weegee’s disheveled apartment will be reconstructed, based on the photos he took of himself inside it—shutter cord in hands, cigar in mouth—before a wall of his images he’d collected from the newspapers that had published them. These shots, says Wallis, suggest “almost a publicity campaign to demonstrate what a hard-core photo reporter looks like.”

Photo: courtesy of the International Center of Photography