Weegee -- a great classic street photographer

ruttrutt Cave canem!Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
edited June 14, 2006 in Technique
Weegee (Arthur Fellig) was a working photojournalist in gritty NY in the forties. I mean working, hanging out at the police station all night waiting for stuff to happen. There's a good web site:

http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/

Look at these, iin particular:

http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/images/wg1-67.jpg
http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/images/wg1-58.jpg
http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/images/wg4-81.jpg
http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/images/wg3-51.jpg
http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/images/wg3-51.jpg

Weegee is an inspiration to just grab that camera and go out and find the stuff that's happening. In any substantial sized town, not to mention big city, there is always stuff happening. Just look in the Crime Watch section of your local paper and you'll see what you've been missing.
If not now, when?
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Comments

  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Thousand Oaks, CARegistered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 19,160 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    I love Weegee. Just found out there's an exhibit of his work at the Getty out here in LA. Closing soon, though...not sure I'll make it...
    Moderator Emeritus
    Dgrin FAQ | Me | Workshops
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    Don't miss this when you peruse the web site: http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/weegee-famous.html

    Maybe we should put them in the dgrin How Tos?

    [Author edit] Sorry these sound clips don't seem to play anymore. I'll see if I can figure out what's going on and post if I do.
    If not now, when?
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    Don't miss this when you peruse the web site: http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/weegee-famous.html

    Maybe we should put them in the dgrin How Tos?

    [Author edit] Sorry these sound clips don't seem to play anymore. I'll see if I can figure out what's going on and post if I do.

    Yeah and when you do, I hope they're not in "real player" format :puke
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    Andy wrote:
    Yeah and when you do, I hope they're not in "real player" format :puke

    What format do you want them in? At this point, I thought, "existing" instead of "not existing" would be a big step forward.

    I listened to these a few years ago and they are really great. Sound quality isn't their strong point as you might imagine.
    If not now, when?
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    What format do you want them in? At this point, I thought, "existing" instead of "not existing" would be a big step forward.

    I listened to these a few years ago and they are really great. Sound quality isn't their strong point as you might imagine.

    Don't I know it. I have 4/7ths of a 1 hour interview with Douglas Kirkland that I'm struggling with. Much of the interview, you just can't hear him :cry
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    Andy wrote:
    Yeah and when you do, I hope they're not in "real player" format :puke
    Yeah, I'm with you. I don't allow Real player on my machines, too darned intrusive. .mpeg or .wmv or .avi are fun by me, Rutt.

    Thanks for the link, by the way. I didn't know the guy's name, but some shots are classics and memorable, especially the opera ladies (and it was a set-up!)
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    Well, I did find this and managed to listen to it after a certain amount of hassle. It's not the same as the clips ICP had on their site, but you can hear Weegee talk about his work. Not bad sound, actually. Maybe you *mudgeons can get someone to convert to some format you can stand and rehost.

    I'm still hoping to find the other clips.
    If not now, when?
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,654 moderator
    edited January 13, 2006
    wxwax wrote:
    Yeah, I'm with you. I don't allow Real player on my machines, too darned intrusive. .mpeg or .wmv or .avi are fun by me, Rutt.

    Thanks for the link, by the way. I didn't know the guy's name, but some shots are classics and memorable, especially the opera ladies (and it was a set-up!)
    Waxy, I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one who REFUSES to allow Real Player access to my computers - they are WAY OVER THE TOP at intrusive to my mind. I'll stick with quicktime or mp3 or mpeg etc
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    wxwax wrote:
    Yeah, I'm with you. I don't allow Real player on my machines, too darned intrusive. .mpeg or .wmv or .avi are fun by me, Rutt.

    Thanks for the link, by the way. I didn't know the guy's name, but some shots are classics and memorable, especially the opera ladies (and it was a set-up!)

    What I love about Weegee is the opposite of what I love about Cartier-Bresson. He's so basic, it's like that quote Andy used to have "F8 and be there." That's what I think is inspirational about these shots. The guy was out every night freelancing, getting paid by the shot. There is almost no shot of Cartier-Bresson's which I can imagine taking, but I can imagine taking some of Weegee's. IF I managed to be there. It was the being there part of it that was key, not the wonderful composition or great technique. Just getting out and getting the shot night to keep himself from having to sleep on a park bench.

    In the end his work has an immediacy which works for me after all this time.
    If not now, when?
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    Immediate and economical. Real. Keeps your interest. The moment. Careful composition.

    I've always admired him.
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    pathfinder wrote:
    Waxy, I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one who REFUSES to allow Real Player access to my computers - they are WAY OVER THE TOP at intrusive to my mind. I'll stick with quicktime or mp3 or mpeg etc
    thumb.gif Maybe we can form a club? lol3.gif
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 13, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    What I love about Weegee is the opposite of what I love about Cartier-Bresson. He's so basic, it's like that quote Andy used to have "F8 and be there." That's what I think is inspirational about these shots. The guy was out every night freelancing, getting paid by the shot. There is almost no shot of Cartier-Bresson's which I can imagine taking, but I can imagine taking some of Weegee's. IF I managed to be there. It was the being there part of it that was key, not the wonderful composition or great technique. Just getting out and getting the shot night to keep himself from having to sleep on a park bench.

    In the end his work has an immediacy which works for me after all this time.
    Well, I've often thought that being there is the most important thing for everything but production shoots and studio shoots.

    So many memorable AP/Getty etc. shots are about being there, rather than technical quality.

    My hat's off to a man who dedicates his life to being there, though.
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 20, 2006
    I was inspired to buy Weegee's book Naked City. It's out of print, but Amazon
    I was inspired to buy Weegee's book Naked City. It's out of print, but Amazon has it cheap (< $10). The reproductions in this book stink, but probobably the don't look any worse than they did in the tabloids where they were first published! On the other hand, the writing is just priceless. Weegee edited his shots, cropped them, layed them out, and wrote every word himself. This is his book, and both the shots and the words are his unique voice. Imagine if Phillip Marlow was a NY photographer instead of a L.A. private eye.

    It will take you less than an hour to read this. I recommend a double Old Crow and a cigar to help get you in the mood. I sank into a deep and very satisfying fantasy, very like reading Raymond Chandler.

    Some quotations to whet your appetite:
    Weegee wrote:
    Laugh -- It's good for you ... forget about all the shoe coupons ... red stamps ... and gas rationing ... and that lonely ache in your heart waiting for First Class Private G.I. Joe to come home safely. That's the kind of picture I like to take...
    weegee wrote:
    It was after midnight and jet black. One of those nights when the moon forgets to come out ... but the sweethearts like that. I took my shoes off so as not to get sand in them and went walking in my stocking feet on the beach, being careful not to bump into any couples. I wouldn't want to disturb them for the world. Once in a while I would hear a giggle or a happy laugh, so I aimed my camera and took a picture in the dark using invisible light.
    weegee wrote:
    This in an unexposed film of Greenwhich Village because nothing ever happens there ... The artists have all gone in for still life ... beause the models are working in defense plants and eating regular...

    Weegee's street photography tips are right on target:
    weegee wrote:
    On news stories, neither permissions nor relases are needed except when photographs are used to advertise commercial products. Pictures of houses or buildings can be published without consent of the owner, but if a man objects to your taking a picture of his property, he can order you and your camera off it -- that's trespassing -- but he cannot stop you from taking a picture providing you are standing on the street or sidewalk which is public property and belongs to everyone.

    Great equipment advice:
    Weegee wrote:
    If you are puzzled about the kind of camera to buy, get a Speed Graphic ... for two reasons ... it's a good camera, and moreover, it's standard equipment for all press photographers ... with a camera like that that the cops will assume you belong on the scene and will let you get behind police lines.

    A little objective reasoning like that would sure calm the great Nikon vs Canon debate!

    And technique:
    Weegee wrote:
    ...I don't use ... extension lights ... tripods ... exposure meters. I haven't time for gadgets because all my energy is concentrated on the drama which is taking place before my eyes.

    I won't quote the description of Weegee's focus technique. Suffice to say he liked to stop down and use "guess focus". Couldn't be bothered to use his range finder (Speed Graphic cameras had these.) Basically, he only used two or three different focus settings. He alnost always used a flash, day or night. But then there are those hints of "invisible light". Those are flashless shots taken in very low light. He doesn't give away that trade secrect, but the images shot this way are among my favorites of his.
    If not now, when?
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 21, 2006
    Rutt's review is now live also on dgrin.smugmug.com, with a link back to this thread.

    http://dgrin.smugmug.com/gallery/1142888

    Thanks Rutt bowdown.gif
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2006
    Weegee's World I was so disappointed with the quality of the reproductions in Naked City that I ordered this book. It's also out of print, but easy to find and the paperback is <$20 on amazon. It's an eye opener for anyone who thinks that Weegee was short on technique. No reproductions of his images that I've ever seen before could prepare me for the perfectly exposed, razor sharp images with deep rich blacks reproduced here. The shots you find online and especially in Naked City look like bad faxes in comparison. Maybe they were scanned from newspaper pages?

    Weegee was blunter than Cartier-Bresson or Bourke-White, but once you see this book, you'll never think he was less of a photographer.

    Highly recommended.
    If not now, when?
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    I was inspired to buy Weegee's book Naked City. It's out of print, but Amazon has it cheap (< $10).




    I stumbled across a signed original copy on eBay that went for $700.
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 27, 2006
    wxwax wrote:
    I stumbled across a signed original copy on eBay that went for $700.

    [imgl]http://museum.icp.org/museum/collections/special/weegee/images/wg6-97.jpg[/imgl]
    There's a big difference between the reissue and the first editions (big bucks). The reissue looks like a bad fax. The original looks like a pulp magazine. The quality of the reproductions in Weegee's World are much better than either. I've seen the rare first edtion of Naked City. It was never a fine art book. Weegee wasn't really a fine art kind of photographer.

    The shot of the two man in the paddy wagon with the top hats over their faces is a good example. In the first edition of Naked City, the shadows in the coats are plugged, showing little detail. But as least they are black. In the reissue, not only are they plugged, they aren't black and have this really awful noise/grain. In Weegee's World there is wonderful shadow detail and fabric texture. I've never seen better.

    I've never seen originals of Weegee's photos. I've seen them in auction catalogs and online and probably in some general collections. So Weegee's World came as a revelation to me. As much as I admired him before as a gritty working photojournalist with a sense of humor, my regard for him has now doubled. He was a true master technician as well; the technical quality of his work is second to none of the other great photographers of his era. Since he was a freelancer and did his own darkroom work, this is especially impressive.

    So unless you collect rare books, spend < $30 and get a super cheap paperback of Naked City just to read and a paperback of Weegee's World for the pictures. Then you'll have all the Weegee you need until you decide to bid on an orginal print at one of the spring auctions.
    If not now, when?
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2006
    [I know I'm repeating myself, but I posted this in a stupid (literally) place and it really deserves to be where Weegee fans who are not interested in a Nikon vs Canon pissing match will see it.]

    Weegee use this huge (by modern standards) Speed Graphic press camra and almost always used a flash (costing a bulb for every exposure.) So that was very very intrusive and obvious, but from what he says, that's the way he liked it. He wanted his subjects to be aware of him and to interact with him. The only times he didn't use that flash was when he used a technique called "invisible light" which might have been some sort of trade secrect of his since he doesn't describe the details (and he does describe a lot of other technical details.) He used invisible light to take pictures of lovers on the beach at Coney Island at night, for example.

    Weegee also liked to use "guess focus". He had some pretty simple rules of thumb about focus and used a very small aperature (f/16 or even f/32) to get DOF and a lot of slack for not very accurate focus. Since he was using a flash that worked well to focus attention on his subjects who were well exposed while his backgrounds were very dark.

    It's an interesting picture of how a photographer's very recognizable style was strongly related to his technique and equipment. And the contrast with HCB who was almost is contemporary is striking.
    If not now, when?
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    [I know I'm repeating myself, but I posted this in a stupid (literally) place and it really deserves to be where Weegee fans who are not interested in a Nikon vs Canon pissing match will see it.]

    Where do you want it? ne_nau.gif
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 28, 2006
    Andy wrote:
    Where do you want it? ne_nau.gif

    You can delete from the pissing match thread if you like. It was a real hijack there, a digression from Ginger who is a digression all by herself (except when she hits a bull's eye.)
    If not now, when?
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    rutt wrote:

    So unless you collect rare books, spend < $30 and get a super cheap paperback of Naked City just to read and a paperback of Weegee's World for the pictures. Then you'll have all the Weegee you need until you decide to bid on an orginal print at one of the spring auctions.
    Because of you I ordered two Weegee books on Friday night. Neither was Naked City.
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    wxwax wrote:
    Because of you I ordered two Weegee books on Friday night. Neither was Naked City.

    You'll love Weegee's World if you ordered it. What was the second book you ordered?
    If not now, when?
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    You'll love Weegee's World if you ordered it. What was the second book you ordered?

    Rutt's REVIEW has bee updated thumb.gif

    bowdown.gif thanks for the contribution, Rutt!
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    And, our keywords are working :D
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    You'll love Weegee's World if you ordered it. What was the second book you ordered?
    Yes, that was one. The other was: "Weegee's New York Photographs, 1935-1960".

    And to satisfy my blood lust, I also ordered: "New York Noir: Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive", William J. Hannigan; Hardcover; $18.87
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • imaximax Major grins Registered Users Posts: 692 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    Thanks Rutt, These were great photographs. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I wonder if you would be able to do the same today.

    joyofliving4-17-43-weegee.jpg

    Joe
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 29, 2006
    wxwax wrote:
    Yes, that was one. The other was: "Weegee's New York Photographs, 1935-1960".

    And to satisfy my blood lust, I also ordered: "New York Noir: Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive", William J. Hannigan; Hardcover; $18.87

    Great, Sid. Can't wait to hear what you think once you get the books.
    If not now, when?
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited January 30, 2006
    Naked City -- dgrin lending library
    I now have a second copy of this. I'll be happy to send the other one to the head of a list of interested readers. Only one string attached, when you are done, you have to send it onward. It's a cheap book, but postage is even cheaper. Fans of Weegee should definitely read at least once, of only for the final chapter about technique and business issues.

    First come first served.
    If not now, when?
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited January 30, 2006
    rutt wrote:
    I now have a second copy of this. I'll be happy to send the other one to the head of a list of interested readers. Only one string attached, when you are done, you have to send it onward. It's a cheap book, but postage is even cheaper. Fans of Weegee should definitely read at least once, of only for the final chapter about technique and business issues.

    First come first served.

    Nice offer. thumb.gif
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • ginger_55ginger_55 Crazy Creek Babe Registered Users Posts: 8,416 Major grins
    edited February 10, 2006
    Weegees World arrived!!!
    I got all excited and shot my dogs!

    ginger (Hey, that is a better book than I expected!!!!)
    After all is said and done, it is the sweet tea.
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