Weegee by Weegee is the latest show to go on display inside Barcelona’s newly renovated Fundación Foto Colectania building, now located in the outstanding Born neighborhood. Thanks to generous contributions from the Swiss collectors Michele Ory and Michel Auer, the work of a curious Ukraine-born, New York-raised photojournalist called Weegee — really named Arthur Usher Felling (1899-1968) — has been put on view together with his books, trusty camera and original typewriter.
Weegee was active in the Big Apple during the 30’s and 40’s as a freelance photographer. He became known for his sensationalised snaps of crime scenes, where he would promptly appear to capture dramatic, highly contrasted images. He was nearly living inside his car, endlessly tuned into the police radio wire, primed for the next gory act.
But crime scenes aren’t the only theme present in the show. He photographed social events and popular hangout spots, like his very famous snap on Coney Island Beach that features a living sea of people peering back at the photographer. Weegee also immortalised many quotidian moments, common scenes on New York sidewalks that will always remain emblematic to the city and the era. All has been brought together in a well-curated and exceedingly elegant exhibition.
Weegee’s book, Naked City, was first published in 1945 and was hailed as a bestseller. In 1956 a documentary directed by Lou Stoumen came out, titled The Naked Eye. Some years later, things came full circle upon the release of the film Public Eye, directed by Howard Franklin and starring Joe Pesci.
It seems he was pretty aware of the quality of the work, and perhaps that’s why he went about signing his photographs “Weegee the Famous.”
He had a point: his images offer a unique societal overview, which likely deserves even more attention than what it’s received by now. Visitors to this exhibition will also appreciate the artistic qualities of certain pictures. Many hung under the heading “Weegee Creative Photography” sought out creative compositional solutions and granted entirely new interpretations to his subjects.
Irony and tenderness alternate throughout, bound in a constant rhythm, like that of an incessantly crackling police scanner, that will excite and trigger spectators’ emotions.