the other day, being slow for me, which is really a good thing in that it gives me leisure time to catch up with this metropolis ever flow and ebb of events, i took a stroll over to ICP see their weegee exhibit.
new york’s history is interesting to me, i even wrote a theatrical history article stored in lincoln center library. i’ve lived here 48 years on and off but still consider this my home city and yet i don’t know half of what’s transpired here.
oh why couldn’t my city be Paris, ghost have traveled both, oh well it is what it is
walking down the stairs underneath the replica of a colt revolver and seeing the opening blown up picture on the wall of weegee perched on a window ledge with his speed graflex poised to snap the shutter i said ‘ i know where that is.’ and so i was hooked right away.
the galleries of this exhibit in ICP basement are full of gritty 8×10 pictures which show an invasive side of new york i’ve not known. the streets i’ve know, the names of clubs remembered but long forgotten by most.
it was a time in the city when policemen wore wool overcoats saying ‘move along now’ and people obeyed. paddy wagons littered the streets as did the corpses weegee’s subjects. there he was ‘johnny on the spot’ snapping pictures of accident victims waiting for ambulances,
covered corpses laying where they fell and the ever present crowd of gawkers.
but what surprised me were the many pictures of weegee, camera ready to grab the shot. there was no mention of who his accomplice was taking the picture of him. he was always ready to promote himself.
it’s been said weegee set up some of the scenes he photographed with the ever helping policemen around. i guess for a few bucks a cup of java or quick produced cigar things got done and no one was hurt. who cared if a body was in the hallway of in the vestibule for a better shot. dead men tell no tales.
the ledge where weegee perched was across the street from police headquarters where the shift turned out for duty calls in the street long before it became famous for property room where the french connection heroin disappeared. new york was different then as it is now in the co-op apartments of old domed headquarters.
there is a picture of weegee working out of the trunk of his 38 chevy typewriter, camera, flashbulbs and the ever present box of cigars. i thought how could a person live like this?
but there are plenty of other pictures of celebrities, celebrations and people everywhere, dead or alive. one of weegees favorite escape places was coney island where new yorkers thronged from summers heat. he loved recording people and new york of the time. weegee was a part of new york and new york a part of him, inseperable.
i can almost smell the cigar smoke. surely murder was his business.