Crime pictures at an exhibition
© International Center of Photography)
I illustrated my "Crime songs" post with this photograph by Arthur Fellig, known as Weegee, and I've been unable to keep my eyes off the thing since. Now I invite you to join me in considering this striking image.
I suspect that some of you will notice the black and white first, then the haircut and coat of the detective at right and the downcast expression of the man in custody. Like me, you may be struck by how much this looks like a still from a film noir. Except it's not that; it's New York detectives in a police lineup room with a suspect in two real murders, one of a police officer.
Time and nostalgia have taken the edge off many movie images. Weegee's photo restores it.
Here's another photograph credited to Weegee that also resonates of the movies. I don't know when the photo was taken, but the woman has the look of a Hollywood star of the 1940s or '50s. I'm no fashion expert, but the suit of the man shielding his face looks as if it may date from the same time or a bit later.
But no Ava Garder or Rita Hayworth ever showed that much skin on screen, as far as I know. Once again, a photograph restores a gritty edge, an impression of reality, that time, nostalgia and, perhaps, censorship had removed. (I can't find date, copyright and ownership information for this photograph. Can anyone out there supply it?)
Here is a link to Weegee's work available for viewing online. Here's a short biography of the photographer. And here's an excerpt from a book to read as a warning against assuming too easily that photographs and reality are identical.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008