Weegee – Magnum Photos

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Weegee (1899-1968), born Usher Fellig in what is now Zolochiv, Ukraine, first worked as a self-taught photographer at age 14, three years after his family immigrated to the United States. His nickname of “Weegee” is said to refer to the phonetic “Ouija,” because of his magical knowledge and instant arrivals at crimes and other emergencies.

As a freelance photographer in the 1930s, at a time when New York City had at least eight daily newspapers and when wire services were just beginning, Weegee captured and distributed images of spot news events faster than almost anyone else. He frequently worked at night, setting out from his apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, across from police headquarters, when breaking news came across his police radio.

For one intense decade, between 1935 and 1946, Weegee was perhaps the most relentlessly inventive figure in American photography. In the 1940s, increased visibility boosted Weegee’s growing reputation, and he began stamping his prints “Weegee the Famous.”

The International Center of Photography’s comprehensive Weegee archive includes more than 20,000 prints. The Weegee archive was bequeathed to ICP in 1993 by Wilma Wilcox, Weegee’s long-term partner.

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