Weegee

This Photographer Brilliantly Documented Crime on the Mean Streets of New York City

Back in 2001, I stumbled upon a photography show at the Getty Center in Los Angeles that I still think is one of my favorite museum exhibits I’ve ever seen. It showcased the work of a photographer who went by the name of Weegee.

Weegee captured street scenes in New York City like no other photographer during the 1930s and 1940s. While he sometimes focused his lens on regular folks going about their daily business, it was his stark black and white photos of crime scenes that made Weegee a legend and exposed people to the dark side of American society.

Weegee was born Usher Fellig in 1899 in what is now part of Ukraine. When he was 10-years-old, his family emigrated to New York. Weegee started taking photographs at a young age, working his way up through several companies before striking out of his own as a freelancer in 1935.

Weegee installed a police scanner in his car so he could be the first photographer on the scene to document New York City’s murders, accidents,…