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Ascher (Usher) Fellig
BirthplaceZłoczów, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Zolochiv, Ukraine)
Known for Street photography of crime scenes or emergencies


Weegee, pseud. of Arthur Fellig, 1899–1968, American photojournalist, b. Zolochiv, Ukraine (then in Austria-Hungary) as Usher Fellig. His family immigrated (1910) to New York City, where he soon quit school, held various photography-related jobs, and worked for Acme Newspictures (later part of United Press International) until 1935. For the next decade he freelanced, selling photos mainly to New York tabloids. About 1938 he adopted the name Weegee, supposedly a phonetic version of the name of the Ouija board, in tribute to his seemingly clairvoyant ability to arrive where and when news was breaking (he monitored the police radio).

With his big, flash-popping Speed Graphic, the cigar-chomping photographer became a fixture of the New York night. Drawn to the grotesque and illicit, he created high-contrast black-and-white shots of grisly crime scenes, fires, and car crashes and of New Yorkers at pleasure spots and grim scenes. He transformed these frequently bloody classics of photojournalism into an art form, one that influenced such later figures as Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, and Andy Warhol.

Weegee became known to a larger audience with his 1945 best seller Naked City, which includes his own text. He later worked as a Hollywood movie consultant (1947–52), experimented with portraits shot with distorting lenses, and made three short films (1948, c.1950, and 1965). An archive of his photographs and negatives is at the International Center of Photography, New York City.


See his memoir, Weegee on Weegee (1961); his other collections, Weegee's People (1946, repr. 1985), Naked Hollywood (1953, repr. 1975), Weegee's New York Photographs, 1935–1960 (1984, repr. 2000), and The Village (1989); J. Coplans, ed., Weegee: Naked New York (1997); A. Talmey, ed., Weegee (1997); M. Barth et al., Weegee's World (1997), and K. W. Purcell, Weegee: Arthur Fellig (2004).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


See Felling, Arthur.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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His chapbook, Black Stars of Blood: The Weegee Poems, was published in the summer of 2018.
Weegee, the press photographer who exposed the grittier side of life in the big city in the '40s and '50s.
They set off a range of photographic connections, from the staged tableaux of Jeff Wall or Gregory Crewdson, to documentary photos of crime scenes, from Weegee in the U.S.
FLASH: THE MAKING OF WEEGEE THE FAMOUS by Christopher Bonanos (Henry Holt and Co.)-By current standards, street photographer Arthur Fellig, better known as Weegee, might be considered a kind of performance artist: elbowing his way to the front of the more sensational scenes of New York night life, snapping pictures in his indelible noir style and developing them in the trunk of his car-so as to rush his product to the dailies ahead of the pack.
A seventh-grade dropout, he became a street photographer who was willing to go wherever and whenever the story took him, and he had little compunction about embellishing a photo's composition to "give the truth some extra help." His nickname was one that he himself advanced, suggesting that he was a human Ouija board, able to arrive as events were unfolding (he went with the phonetic spelling, "Weegee," "to make it easier for the fan mail.").
The anti-hero epitomizing this descent of photography into 'the lowbrow, even the seedy and tawdry' (p200) is of course Weegee, whose nighttime pictures were virtually all made with a flashlight that 'is not an invisible means to an end: it is always announcing its presence' (p199).
Artist as Reporter: Weegee, Ad Reinhardt, and the "PM" News Picture, by Jason E.
Maria Elizabeth Arcenas Mate' or Weegee, captures soul-bearing emotions that make viewers feel the moment in which it was taken.
Weegee (Arthur Fellig) is the obvious point of reference here, and Flash!
Hanson engages with an interesting and motley group of nominal heroes and villains with whom he shares the daily stage: 11-year-old Weegee, who has the street smarts of someone twice his age; drug lord Felix Maxwell, the sort of folk hero about which narcocorridos are written; and a plethora of fellow cops who take umbrage at Hanson's refusal to comply with police norms.
Other responses have included the Refuweegee campaign (a pun on weegee, the vernacular name for a Glasgwegian), discussed in this issue by Teresa Piacentini.