Suitcases (and trunks) have played an important role in the life and work of Weegee.
For Usher H. Fellig, (born 1899) who immigrated from Lemberg, Austria (now Lviv, Ukraine), with his mother and three siblings, and arrived in New York (in 1910), a suitcase is more than an overstuffed, well-worn metaphor.
A curious passerby peers into the trunk which held the body of a well dressed man who had been stabbed to death in Brooklyn. Trunk and body were found near the Gowanus Canal, and police believe the murderers were interrupted as they prepared to dump their victim into the river. New York Post, August 5, 1936
The trunk murder shown above took place in Brooklyn. The man peering at the corpse is not a detective. It is Mr. Fellig who knows that editors demand people in pictures so he set his camera, took himself by means of a cable release concealed in his right hand.
The expurgated trunk murder pictured above is the same as the one at the left except that the corpse has been painted out. This was done by the New York Post which feared that the corpse would upset its readers. Other papers printed the picture with corpse in full view.
Life, April 12, 1937, pp. 8-10
Therefore it should come as no surprise that a suitcase full of previously unknown Weegee prints, negatives, and newspapers has recently been discovered!
Weegee, [Vivian’s Suitcase], ca. 1945
This is not the newly discovered suitcase, but is similar in size, and will provide a bit of foreshadowing…
Weegee, [Woman walking on sidewalk at night holding a suitcase], ca. 1940
Again, this is not the suitcase, nevertheless the Weegee suitcase is not dissimilar.
From 1934 to 1947 Weegee lived and worked at 5 Centre Market Place, across the street from Police Headquarters.
Unidentified Photographer, Covering the Morning Police Line-up, Manhattan Police Headquarters, ca. 1939
Several years ago, the beautiful little unique and historic brick building that was 5 Centre Market Place was destroyed, or rather, “renovated” and converted into a larger hideous structure.
The Weegee Archive at the International Center of Photography has recently purchased the building and is in the process of restoring it to it’s previous splendor (including the firing range in the sub-basement). When the construction is complete, the building will house The Weegee Museum and Archive (soon to be known as the TWMAA@ICP@5CMPl). In the future, TWMAA@ICP@5CMPl will present exhibitions (including That’s Life: From PM to HO), the education department will offer classes (including “How to Shoot a Murder”), the community engagement department will present re-enactments of infamous Fellig photos, the large gift shop will stock vintage flashbulbs, humidors, fedoras, Ouija boards, police radios, and even a few used maroon 1938 Chevys, and of course there will be a cafe, (as Weegee used to say: “Photographs are like blintzes – Ya gotta get ‘em while they are hot!”). And in the near future we will be issuing a casting call for Weegee look alikes and impersonators, so get your Speed Graphic(s) out of the closet and buy a few dozen cigars…
During the reconstruction of the Weegee Museum and Archive (TWMAA@ICP@5CMPl), a small suitcase was found! Unearthed in the back of the front of the second floor, in what must have been a torridly fecund little closet/darkroom, was a surprisingly well preserved set of chartreuse Amelia Earhart luggage!
For the past seventeen months, an army of TWMAA@ICP@5CMPl Archivists and TWMAA@ICP@5CMPl Conservators have been analyzing and conserving the materials (around the clock) and the TWMAA@ICP@5CMPl Imaging Department has been digitizing the photographs, negatives, and periodicals (also around the clock). And here for the first time, we present (never previously seen by human eyes) a glimpse into the Weegee Suitcase…
Please make sure you are sitting down. If you have a heart condition or epilepsy you may want to avert your eyes. And now, ladies and gentlemen, a sampling of the surprises, the strange and unreal… unseen for over sixty years… perhaps never to be seen again… a quick peep into the unexpurgated Weegee Suitcase…
Happy April Fools’ Day from the Collections at ICP!