Arthur Fellig

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Weegees stamped his pictures

Arthur "Weegee" Fellig , born as Ascher Fellig (born June 12, 1899 in Złoczów near Lemberg , Galicia , † December 26, 1968 in New York , USA ), was an American photographer .


When the Jewish Fellig family immigrated to the USA in 1910 and settled in the East Side of New York , the son's name was changed from Ascher or (Anglicized) Usher to Arthur . To support his family, Arthur Fellig left the local state school at the age of 14 and worked first as a candy seller, then as a street photographer and assistant at a photo retailer. At the age of 18 he moved out of his parents' home and got by with odd jobs. He stayed in train stations and asylums for the homeless until he finally found a job as a passport photo photographer. In the mid-1920s he began working as a photo lab technician and temporary reporter at the Acme Newspictures picture agency , which later became part of United Press International . In 1935 he left Acme and tried to work as a freelance press photographer. He specialized in pictures of mostly nocturnal traffic accidents, fire disasters and violence. Equipped with police radio , he was often at the scene of the incident before the emergency services. The recordings from his 4 × 5 ″ camera were regularly published in all the major tabloids . From 1938 he was the first press photographer to be officially equipped with police radio. During those 10 years of service, his office was practically in the Manhattan Police Headquarters . Towards the end of this violent era, he had exclusive deals with PM Daily and Vogue magazines .

Weegee first came about as a nickname because Fellig was considered a "magician" by millions of newspaper readers in New York at the time due to the extraordinary approach with which his photos were taken . It was compared with the fascination of the Ouija , which was regarded as the “magic board” and which was also very en vogue in large circles of the US population during these years . The two words of the term, which was formed from the French “oui” (it means “ja”) and the German “ja”, were pronounced in the slang “wee” and “gee”.

His self-confidence was very strong. After adopting WEEGEE as a pseudonym , he soon began to sign his photos with WEEGEE THE FAMOUS ( Weegee the Famous ). His trademark were photos up close, lit head-on and hard with the flash. At first, however, he only became really famous in the press. That changed with the publication of his book Naked City , in which he combined his crime and accident photos with photos of the poor and homeless and which was filmed in 1947.

His incomparable depth was often shown in the captions of his photographs. One of his most famous pictures is titled Simply add boiling water - it shows a burning skyscraper with exactly this advertising slogan and the fire brigade's attempts to extinguish it.

In the mid-forties he gave up reportage photography and tried his hand at advertising for various magazines, adviser for film projects, photo caricaturist and short film maker. Although he did not make the big breakthrough with it, he stayed true to these experiments.

At the time of his death he was largely forgotten, but in the meantime his pictures belong to the global standard in professional circles and at photo exhibitions at least in the 1930s and 1940s.


  • Jörn Glasenapp : Unknown from the photographer of the pale night figures? in: Photo history . Vol. 26 (2006), p. 102, p. 59.
  • Jörn Glasenapp: Photography – Autobiography – Topophilia: Images and Self-Images in Weegee's 'Naked City'. in: Photo history. Vol. 27 (2007), H. 104, pp. 3-20.
  • Jörn Glasenapp: The great sleep: Photo-writing-relationships at Weegee. in: Photo history. Vol. 28 (2008), H. 108, pp. 18-28.
  • Weegee's New York: Photographs 1935–1960. With an autobiographical text from the American by Reinhard Kaiser. Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-921375-84-3 (new edition 1996)
  • Weegee: Naked City. Da Capo, ISBN 0-306-81204-5 .


Web links

Commons : Weegee  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. (accessed on January 6, 2012)