Thursday, July 24, 2008

More on Weegee's world of crime

(Simply Add Boiling Water, Weegee, 1937; print, about 1950 Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography)


I found an exhibition catalogue Tuesday evening called Weegee's New York that displays the Cop Killer photo on its cover but gives a date of 1939 rather than 1941. (I suppose there are at least three ways to date a documentary photo: by the date of the event, by the date of the negative, and by the date of the print.) The catalogue also includes a photograph of what appears to be the same woman shown in the stripper photo from my "Crime pictures at an exhibition" post, but it gives no date, a disappointing omission for an exhibition catalogue.

The book does, however, begin with an epigraph from Walter Benjamin that reads, in part: "[I]s not every spot of our cities the scene of a crime? every passerby a perpetrator? Does not the photographer — descendant of augurers and haruspices — uncover guilt in his pictures?"

The introduction also cites the humor of Weegee's captions, those "extravagant, callously written witticisms à la Raymond Chandler."

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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10 Comments:

Blogger Loren Eaton said...

I love this photo. The composition (and the humor!) are spot-on.

July 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The humor adds to what already is a compelling and beautiful composition. I had to scan the photo carefully before I could find the "Simply add boiling water" sign.

July 24, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

People just dressed better back then. I think that's part of the reason 'Mad Men' is so successful. Suits, hats.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose back then, a slob was someone who wore an ill-fitting suit. And, short of total degradation, the surest sign a crime novel or movie from before, say, the 1960s could give that a man was down on his luck was to portray him in a suit so old that it shone. But the guys still wore suits. To be dressed otherwise was a sign of depravity, as in the case of the fat, leering, T-shirt-wearing, rat-keeping gun dealer in a film-noir classic whose title now slips my mind.

July 25, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I love those old photographs of baseball games. The crowd are all in suits, dresses, even the kids are smart. I cant tell you how many plumbers cracks I've seen at Coors Field. I think there's even one stadium that has an outdoor pool from which you can watch the game and drink beer. I only became an American a few months ago but still I can ask: nihilne sanctum?

July 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ahh, when a plumber gets to leave his cares behind and let it all hang out at a baseball game -- that's plumber's craic.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' ballpark is the one with the pool, which I think is part of the drive to appeal to all people, all the time, whether or not they're much interested in baseball. It's all part of enhancing the experience and growing the revenue streams.

July 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just discovered that a Wegee Exhibition (should be the one you mentioned) is in Milan,and will remain open until October 12.I'll try to go and have a look.

Marco

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I'll for mention of that exhibit on the Web. I'll also look to see what museums and galleries within reasonable distance of where I live have Weegee's photographs in their collections.

If you attend the Milan exhibition, I'd be interested to hear whether the photographs remind you of film noir and of detective novels and stories.

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous Sandy said...

Such a great article it was which the catalogue also includes a photograph of what appears to be the same woman shown in the stripper photo from my Crime pictures at an exhibition post, but it gives no date, a disappointing omission for an exhibition catalogue. In which The book does, however, begin with an epigraph from Walter Benjamin that reads. Thanks for sharing this article.

February 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sandy, I think I've looked at the same exhibition catalogue. I seem to remember being shocked by the scarcity of information in one Weegee book I looked at.

March 08, 2012  

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