“f/8 and be there”
The above phrase, which has now become commonly known in the field, is attributed to Weegee, an entrepreneurial and pioneering photographer who became
known for his gritty and dark images, for beating authorities to crime scenes, and for rushing the film to the press in order to break the news.
self portrait of Weegee, or Ascher Fellig
When asked about his start, he said, “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.” (Wikipedia--cited below)
Weegee became the first civilian to obtain permission to install a police radio, which he did in 1938, and which enabled him to gain his reputation as
having an uncanny aptitude for arriving at the scenes of crimes or tragedies before the blood had cooled, so to speak. His nickname Weegee most
likely came from this characteristic. His ability to dish up breaking news earned him a spot in many publications, including the “ Herald Tribune,
World-Telegram, Daily News, New York Post, New York Journal American, and Sun” (Wikipedia).
Below is a thumbnail of a few of his tragic images (is it disrespectful to the dead and mourning to take photographs? I definitely think so! I hate
to perpetuate our voyeuristic tendencies by posting this but maybe getting a discussion going on the subject is what I’m hoping for)
Speaking of voyeurism, Weegee managed to capture shots of that as well:
“ Nudists, circus performers, freaks and street people” (Wikipedia)
On top of crime scene photographs, Weegee captured lots of gritty imagery from the streets of New York. He had a penchant for capturing the outcasts
and freaks, the non conformists who flouted social norms. Here are some samples of his extensive work. Each one tells a story.
In my opinion the idea of pulling out a camera and capturing intimate and/or “private” moments is rather abhorrent-- and I am embarrassed for, and
horrified by, the people I see with cell phones out filming a person who is injured or suffering injury rather than doing something to help. The idea
of photographers flashing cameras in the face of those grieving the dead also bothers me, but I have to admit that the images of human grief captured
are often striking and probably serve their purpose as well.
The Black Mirror episode “White Bear” presents this concept so well… anyone seen this episode? I’ll include part of the synopsis here:
Liptak said it portrays people as victims of technology, while Joyner commented it denotes that "the way in which we are spoon-fed an almost
constant stream of information through technology has turned us into passive consumers". Joyner believes that Brooker implicates the viewer with
the story's credits scene, noting "we're the ones with the smartphones, passively absorbing abuses to human rights and decency, and yet revelling in
the image from the safety of the screen". Jeffery and Parker affirmed it contains the idea that people are preferring to document life rather than
living it, as exemplified by "people who see violence break out ... and decide to film it rather than intervene." Leigh Alexander of Boing
Boing said the episode reflects how violence is easily accessed on the Internet and quickly arouses people's attention. She noted, "you can view the
episode as a critique of all kinds of themes: Mob mentality, reality television, even the complicated treatment of women in the justice system ...
Primarily, though, this episode is a critique of our deep, often-unexamined mass desensitisation, or at least a dread portent of its potential to
grow. It aims to ask: To what extent can you stand by and watch horror before you are complicit, punishable?"
Perhaps my favorite work of Weegee's wasn't his photography, although it still was in film. Weegee collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the
masterpiece Dr Strangelove
as a special effects consultant and stills photographer. It is said that his accent partly inspired Peter Seller's
affect in the film. That alone would be an amazing legacy!
Thanks for checking out the thread, my friends! Hope you are enjoying the remainder of your week and have a great weekend. I’m looking forward to
hearing your thoughts on the subject!
edit on 29-11-2019 by zosimov because: (no reason given)