I have no inhibitions and neither has my camera... Arthur Fellig was born in Austria in 1899. Coming to the USA in 1909, he ended up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Leaving school in 1914 to help support the family, he worked for a time as a street photographer. In 1923 he joined Acme News Services as a darkroom operator. In 1935, he left to work as a freelance photographer. He acquired the name Weegee early on, a reference to the Ouija board and his uncanny ability to arrive quickly at crime scenes - sometimes, even before the police (from 1937, he was the only civilian allowed to install a police radio in his car).
From 1940 to 1944, Weegee worked on a retainer to PM newspaper, free to choose his own stories and making many of his best pictures in this period. 1945 saw an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art and the publication of his best seller Naked City. The following year Weegee’s People was published. Opening up on the stories of New York: its streets, its bars and tenements, its crimes, tragedies and entertainments, he helped to shape urban America’s consciousness of itself, his images defining both the myth and reality of the city. Emerging as a national celebrity, he traveled to Hollywood, lecturing and photographing for Naked Hollywood (1953). He traveled widely and continued to work up until his death in 1968.
Weegee died of a brain tumor on December 26, 1968. Today Weegee is credited with ushering in the age of tabloid culture, while at the same time being revered for elevating the sordid side of human life to that of high art.
HE STAMPED HIS PHOTOGRAPHS ''Credit Weegee the Famous,'' and he earned his fame on images of murder and fire and car accidents, with some lovers and low-life thrown into the bargain. In 1946, after the huge success of his book ''Naked City,'' he announced that he was through with news photography and no longer interested in the seamy side of New York.
Text drawn from Side Gallery archive sources:Amber Online