Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig (June 12, 1899 – December 26, 1968), a photographer and photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street photography. Weegee worked in the Lower East Side of New York City as a press photographer during the 1930s and '40s, and he developed his signature style by following the city's emergency services and documenting their activity. Much of his work depicted unflinchingly realistic scenes of urban life, crime, injury and death. Weegee published photographic books and also worked in cinema, initially making his own short films and later collaborating with film directors such as Jack Donohue and Stanley Kubrick. Weegee was born Ascher (Usher) Fellig in Z?oczów (now Zolochiv, Ukraine), near Lemberg, Austrian Galicia. His name was changed to Arthur when he emigrated with his family to live in New York in 1909. There he took numerous odd jobs, including working as an itinerant photographer and as an assistant to a commercial photographer. In 1924 he was hired as a dark-room technician by Acme Newspictures (later United Press International Photos). He left, however, in 1935 to become a freelance photographer. He worked at night and competed with the police to be first at the scene of a crime, selling his photographs to tabloids and photographic agencies. His photographs, centered around Manhattan police headquarters, were soon published by the Herald Tribune, World-Telegram, Daily News, New York Post, New York Journal American, Sun, and others.
In 1957, after developing diabetes, he moved in with Wilma Wilcox, a Quaker social worker whom he had known since the 1940s, and who cared for him and then cared for his work. He traveled extensively in Europe until 1968, working for the Daily Mirror and on a variety of photography, film, lecture, and book projects. In 1968, Weegee died in New York on December 26, at the age of 69.
Weegee can be seen as the American counterpart to Brassaï, who photographed Paris street scenes at night. Weegee’s themes of nudists, circus performers, freaks and street people were later taken up and developed by Diane Arbus in the early 1960s. In 1980 Weegee’s widow, Wilma Wilcox, Sidney Kaplan, Aaron Rose and Larry Silver formed The Weegee Portfolio Incorporated to create an exclusive collection of photographic prints made from Weegee’s original negatives. As a bequest, Wilma Wilcox donated the entire Weegee archive - 16,000 photographs and 7,000 negatives - to the International Center of Photography in New York. This 1993 gift became the source for several exhibitions and books include "Weegee's World" edited Miles Barth (1997) and "Unknown Weegee" edited by Cynthia Young (2006). The first and largest exhibition was the 329-image “Weegee’s World: Life, Death and the Human Drama,” brought forth in 1997. It was followed in 2002 by “Weegee’s Trick Photography,” a show of distorted or otherwise caricatured images, and four years later by “Unknown Weegee,” a survey that emphasized his more benign, post-tabloid photographs. In 2012 ICP opened another Weegee exhibition titled, "Murder is my Business". Also in 2012, exhibition called "Weegee: The Naked City", opened at Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow.