'When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you are on the right track.' Weegee, "Camera Tips"
Currently on show in the first floor of the Michael Hoppen Gallery you can explore the work of the premier New York chronicler of the 1940s, Weegee (Arthur Fellig, 1899-1968). Here is the life of the city laid bare: the parties, mishaps, crimes and crashes and the ever present casual bystanders to incidents. Following police tip-offs Weegee was on the spot at a moment’s notice, to record the demise of a gangster slain in a mob hit, or a crashed car hoisted skyward with the bodies still inside. With a car fitted out like a mobile studio he prowled the night, tracking a dramatic moment: from the tenements of the lower East Side, the waterfront, the clubs and bars. There are exuberant images such as the great ‘Dora’, belting out sentimental songs at Sammy’s night club. Weegee goes in close and personal and subjects seem to allow his intervention. There is an element of performance in ‘Boy meets Girl’, a bar room embrace in 1942. The vitality and humour of the people are striking. 'After the Opera’ records a ridiculous scene where a man in evening dress pets a live pig on a bar table. He catches the provocative and sleazy side, ‘A Naked Party, Astors’ a shameless couple, she in a sequinned bikini and he only a g string, cavort drunkenly in a hotel room.
Weegee’s eye roves restlessly, seeking out an unvarnished truth about life lived for perpetuity, and credit is due to Michael Hoppen for gathering this collection of potent images.
All images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery
Images top to bottom:(After the Opera.. at Sammy's Nightclup on the Bowery, c.1944 copyright Weegee/ International Center of Photography/ Getty Images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery, Silver gelatin print 11x14; Ball at The Astor © © Estate of Weegee/ International Center of Photography/Getty Images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery)