Weegee, Pole Painter, Gelatin silver print c. 1955
WEEGEE (1899-1968) USA
Pole Painter c. 1955
Gelatin silver print
Signed: Photo by WEEGEE, collection of Suzanne and Hugh Johnston, (stamped in blue ink on back); 208 (in pencil on back); PHOTO BY WEEGEE N.Y.C. (round ink stamp on back)
Provenance: the artist; the Collection of Suzanne and Hugh Johnston (documentary filmmakers who met Weegee in 1956 and worked as colleagues, shooting experimental film footage using Weegee's special lenses)
Size: H: 9 1/8” x W: 8 1/8”
Framed size: H: 15 5/8” x W: 14 ½”
Weegee was the pseudonym of Arthur Fellig, an American photographer and photojournalist, known for his stark black and white street photography. Fellig's nickname was a phonetic rendering of Ouija, due to his frequent arrival at scenes only minutes after crimes, fires or other emergencies were reported to authorities. He is variously said to have named himself Weegee, or to have been named by either the girls at Acme or by a police officer. He is best known as a candid news photographer whose stark black-and-white shots documented street life in New York City. Weegee's photos of crime scenes, car-wreck victims in pools of their own blood, overcrowded urban beaches and various grotesques are still shocking, though some, like the juxtaposition of society grandes dames in ermines and tiaras and a glowering street woman at the Metropolitan Opera (The Critic, 1943), turned out to have been staged. In 1938, Fellig was the only New York newspaper reporter with a permit to have a portable police-band shortwave radio. He maintained a complete darkroom in the trunk of his car, to expedite getting his free-lance product to the newspapers. Weegee worked mostly at night; he listened closely to broadcasts and often beat authorities to the scene. Most of his notable photographs were taken with very basic press photographer equipment and methods of the era, a 4×5 Speed Graphic camera preset at f/16, @ 1/200 of a second with flashbulbs and a set focus distance of ten feet. He had no formal photographic training but was a self-taught photographer and relentless self-promoter. He is sometimes said not to have had any knowledge of the New York art photography scene; but in 1943 the Museum of Modern Art included several of his photos in an exhibition. He was later included in another MoMA show organized by Edward Steichen, and he lectured at the New School for Social Research. He also undertook advertising and editorial assignments for Life and Vogue magazines, among others. His acclaimed first book collection of photographs, Naked City (1945), became the inspiration for a major 1948 movie The Naked City, and later the title of a pioneering realistic television police drama series and a band led by the New York experimental musician John Zorn. Weegee also made short 16mm films beginning in 1941 and worked with and in Hollywood from 1946 to the early 1960s, both as an actor and a consultant. He was an uncredited special effects consultant and credited still photographer for Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. His accent was one of the influences for the accent of the title character in the film, played by Peter Sellers. In the 1950s and 60s, Weegee experimented with panoramic photographs, photo distortions and photography through prisms. He made a famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe in which her face is grotesquely distorted yet still recognizable. For the 1950 movie The Yellow Cab Man, Weegee contributed a sequence in which automobile traffic is wildly distorted; he is credited for this as “Weegee” in the film's opening credits. He also traveled widely in Europe in the 1960s, and took advantage of the liberal atmosphere in Europe to photograph nude subjects.
Weegee, Pole Painter, Gelatin silver print c. 1955
MARION FALLER USA
HOLLIS FRAMPTON USA
Apple Advancing 1975
Signed: 782. Apple advancing [var. “Northern Spy”] from “Sixteen Studies from Vegetable Locomotion,” 1975 by Marion Faller & Hollis Frampton) on back of photograph; Marion Faller Hollis Frampton (in script on the bottom of the back of the photograph)
H: 10 7/8” x W: 13 7/8” (unframed)
H: 15 3/16 “ x W: 20 15/16” (framed)
WERNER ROHDE (1906-1990) Germany
Silver gelatin print, ebonized wood frame
Signed: Werner Rohde 1926 (pencil signature and date on back on photo); inv. 3RMG 1081.27
Photo: H: 6 13/16” x W: 4 15/16”
Framed: H: 16 5/16” x W: 14 3/8”
Werner Rohde’s visual play with the animate and inanimate draws him close to the aesthetics of the surrealists while maintaining a strong alignment with Germany’s new-vision avant-garde. Rohde experimented widely with double exposures, photomontage, perspective and dramatic lighting that reflected his interest in filmic effects. The son of a glass painter (a medium he would turn to later in life), Rohde took up photography during his studies at the Arts and Craft School in Halle. Like Kesting, Willy Zielke and Kretschmer, he participated in the 1929 ‘Film und foto’ exhibition in Stuttgart that remains one of the historical focal points for Germany’s new photographic vision. Despite this early recognition of his work, Rohde fell into obscurity after the war until the rediscovery of his photographs in the mid 1970s.
Rohde’s fascination with the play between life and lifeless, animate and inanimate, has strong reverberations with surrealism. Masks, mannequins and paper models were used in his photographs to illuminate the uncanny. They were also employed in his self-portraiture in which he mimicked his idol Charlie Chaplin. These techniques of visual illusion provided a mnemonic tool for the images of his wife in which she is posed and photographed to resemble a doll or mannequin. In the act of art imitating life, ‘Wachspuppenkopf’ is uncanny in its mimicry of the human form with realistic teeth, eyes, skin and even the unusual detail of small wrinkles under the eyes. The downward angle, lighting and odd doubling of the neckline utilizes standard surrealist methods to infer life and movement.