Saturday, August 04, 2007

Weegee

The Musée Maillol is a small private museum not far from the more famous Musée D’Orsay on the left bank. It houses the permanent collection of sculptures, oils and pastels of Aristide Maillol as well as the odd work by Picasso, Kandinsky and a host of others, but more interestingly what brings me back again and again are the temporary exhibitions.

Weegee, the current exhibition is a collection of more than two hundred of Arthur Fellig’s most famous photographs. As a press photographer in the early 1930’s Fellig virtually lived in his Ford Coupé for a few years listening to the police band on the radio and turning up at the scene of violent crimes often before the police. It was this almost prescient ability which earned him the name Weegee (based on Ouija).


Weegee’s photos range from shocking to humorous, reality with a certain twist. There were times where the blood spilling over the edge of the curb or the white teeth grinning out from a carbonised body made me cringe, whereas a photo of a dead gangster in front of a movie theatre showing ‘The Joy of Living’ made me laugh out loud. Weegee’s photos are more than a press photo; in many of those murder scene photographs it’s more interesting to look at the expressions of the onlookers than at the corpse that dominates the foreground. In one shot at the opera sits a priest with thick round spectacles and because of the quality of the light he seems to be surrounded by pale faced, pebble eyed vampires (or maybe that was my overactive imagination). His portraits of the stars also have an ability to speak volumes, he’s captured Veronica Lake looking like a goddess, Dali is slightly out of focus and wobbly and Sinatra looks like a good time boy.


Weegee had an ability to convey a story with each of his photos. There’s no sense of invasion, other then when he’s trying to capture the faces of arrested criminals, and even there he manages to create beautiful shots of hidden faces.


The exhibition runs until the middle of October, just in case you happen to be in Paris before then. I would totally recommend it.

3 comments:

Jon M said...

Interesting stuff, had never heard of him before. There's a guy peering at the camera in your middle pic reminds me of people who hover behind tv news reporters during live broadcasts.

apprentice said...

Great piece and fabulous pictures. I love the "meat wagon" one, it fels like Chicago in the 20s!

Verilion said...

Yeah, there were a whole series of covered face shots and he just has this ability to snap it at the right moment. He was a great photographer.

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