Weegee’s Naked City

Weegee’s Naked City

Weegee's photos from the 1930s and '40s defined Manhattan as a film noir nightscape of gangsters, bums, slumming swells and tenement dwellers.

Sometimes referred to as the Ansel Adams of New York City’s unseemly underbelly, the iconoclastic Weegee photographed the grit and grime of the 1930’s and 40’s Big Apple. Hookers and hustlers, winos and wise guys — “the Naked City” as Weegee himself would term it.

John Strausbaugh continues his New York Times’ Weekend Explorer walking series of NYC with a look at the streets and alleyways that once provided the setting for Weegee’s visceral blend of edgy urban imagery. More than the just his photos (which are interspersed with video interviews of local historians), the piece gives considerable scrutiny to the character and biography of Weegee (a pseudonym for Arthur Fellig), including archival audio interviews showcasing the photographer’s peculiar wit and indeterminate way with words. Weegee’s old stomping ground now appears more like a posh shopping town, but this piece is a fantastic glimpse of a bizarre and brilliant photographer.

Story: John Strausbaugh

Production Assistant: Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Length: 8:07