Weegee (1899-1968) was a photographer whose work continued to captivate audiences. Renowned for his unflinching portrayal of New York City in the mid-20th century, Weegee’s photographs are a window into gritty drama and urban realism. As a self-taught photographer, his unique approach to storytelling reveals the city’s underbelly, documenting the lives of the marginalized and forgotten. His photographs transcend mere photojournalism, offering profound commentary on the human condition. Weegee’s career began as a freelance news photographer, where he earned his nickname due to his uncanny ability to arrive at crime scenes before the police. His distinctive style, with a keen sense of timing and a sharp eye for human emotions, results in images that are as arresting today as they were when first captured.
Born Utherin Zloczow in Austria-Hungary (now in Ukraine), he later immigrated to the United States, where he discovered photography at age 14. His self-taught approach to photography gained momentum, and by the 1940s, Weegee’s work transitioned to a move toward formal abstraction and a more refined composition. It was also during this time that Weegee started hand-printing his images. By 1950, Weegee further solidified his evolving expression between reality and abstraction after encountering artists like Diane Arbus and Edward Steichen. By the end of his career, he had taken upon writing and teaching photography.
Throughout the decades of his career, Weegee has been highlighted through several exhibitions: Weegee: Naked City, his first solo exhibition in 1941 at the Museum of Modern Art. Some others include Weegee by Weege in 1997 and Weegee: Murder Is My Business in 2006 at the International Center of Photography. Weegee’s legacy endures with his sculptures and paintings housed in esteemed institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
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