Saturday, October 23, 2010


The work of Arthur Fellig, professionally known as Weegee was a personal marker to me on how one's appreciation of art can mature. As a young art student first discovering his work in books I was appalled at the seeming exploitation of the subject matter. Revisiting much later I saw the genuine humanity in same, of which, within modern life, we all need to be constantly reminded.

Even his captions inform of same- a young girl kissing a young sailor during WWII is titled "Tomorrow he sails." You cannot look at his photo of, say, the true horror on a mother's face as she watches her child die in a burning building without emotion welling up in yourself as well. And rebooting empathy makes us all better humans.

Indeed, this very photo is in the terrific above clip of Weegee explaining his methodology. For a nine minute codification, he explores quite a lot, admitting to being a perfectionist in wanting everyone to look good, even criminals or corpses, and how innate it all must be to become a news image professional, to be that quick and that confident in all circumstances.

Yes, my own mannered work, action or studio, resembles his not a whit (except for wanting people [living ones] to look good.) I still recommend the difficult to locate film "The Public Eye" which fictionalizes Fellig quite well via Joe Pesci. The movie's continuity crew got all the old cameras and equipment correct, and there's many an insider verity about photographers in general; i.e., he doesn't like to have his own picture taken (because folks who take snapshots don't take the care with their subjects that a pro does) and when asked why he pursues this difficult and occasionally demeaning line of work (even more demeaned today) he replies "It's what I do." Spoken like a true artist.

Thank you Steve Manning on Facebook for sending me the Weegee video at top.

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