Why I Love the Photography of Weegee

I’ve recently started to re-study the work of Weegee, and I’m so inspired by his work.

Reasons why I love the work of Weegee:

  1. The surrealism in his photos make you reconsider, why do we perceive reality the way we do? Is there more than one way of seeing the world? You see this much in his “distortions” works, where he intentionally distorts his photos, and overlaps them, to create a new type of image.
  2. His epic use of flash (remember this was the old school days with large format rangefinder cameras, where he more or less only got a single shot per scene. He also had to use disposable flash bulbs).
  3. The social historian role he did: documenting his times. For example at the time, it was illegal for men cross dress as women. He documented secret societies and showed his contempt for Hollywood celebrities in his photos, and the vacuous nature of consumerism and capitalism.
  4. His photos are just fun and interesting to look at. They’re often comical, yet grotesque at the same time. His photos are non-dull (the best compliment to any photographer).
  5. His fantastic compositions. Note how he does a lot of layered flash shots, and how he integrates the “Arabesque/curve” composition to his work.

Life lessons from Weegee

Some of his inspiring ideas:

1. Create your own job and make your own opportunities.

I didn’t wait till somebody gave me a job or something – I went and created a job for myself; freelance photographer. And what I did anybody else can do.

2. Make photos of things which are meaningful to you

I picked [stories] that meant something.

3. The camera has a flexible viewpoint

The same camera that photographs a murder scene can photograph a beautiful society affair at a big hotel.

4. You don’t know if you got a good photo until afterwards

I just look through the wire- finder in my camera and as a matter of fact, when I really see the picture is when I’ve developed the film. Then I really see what I’ve have done.

Lesson: Shoot a lot. You can only know if you’ve got a good photo after the fact!

5. Emotionally bond yourself with your subjects

When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you are on the right track.

I’m gonna keep studying him more, but for the meanwhile here’s some of my favorite photos of his:

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