A Strikingly Beautiful Downtown Nocturne: Naked City (annotated)


Weegee (1899-1968), “Naked City,” 1945 (2011.75.2)


Weegee (1899-1968), “Naked City,” 1945 (2011.75.2)

This month marks the 72nd anniversary of the publication of Weegee’s Naked City. The book begins with a bang. The first photo (after a pair of surprising and amusing photos on the end pages of the author at work – putting on boots and typing) is of New York City at night: a dark sky, Brooklyn Bridge, cars on cobblestones, a building with a Central Vermont Terminal sign, round street lights, a cluster of buildings, and a bolt of lightning apparently striking the skyscraper on the far right. A suitable introduction to Weegee’s Naked City. Printed on the upper left of the page spread is lower, or southern and eastern, Manhattan, places of work, after or before work. This photo, foreshadowing the rest of the book, is a view of New York City that most people don’t see, that will be illuminated by a flash of light, might be shocking, and is one of the most noir-ish photos in the book. A well-done rare landscape.


Weegee (1899-1968), “Striking Beauty,” July 27, 1940 (98.1982)

The three skyscrapers are, from left, City Bank Farmers Trust Co., 20 Exchange Place (built 1931); the City Services/AIG Building, 70 Pine Street (1932); and the Bank of Manhtaan Trust Building, 40 Wall Street (1930). In the center foreground is the Central Vermont Terminal, Pier 29, the East River. (The Weegee Guide to New York, pp. 12-13)


Weegee (1899-1968), [Bolt of lightning apparently striking the Bank of Manhattan Trust Building, New York], July 27, 1940 (2009.16.1) Perhaps the only known negative is a 4×5 negative of a photograph – a cropped “Striking Beauty.”


New York Daily News, July 29, 1940, p. 18

Strike Two. This remarkable foto shows a brilliant bolt of lightning apparently striking City Bank Farmer’s Trust Co., at 20 Exchange Place, during Saturday night’s storm. The fotog shot foto on South St., near Brooklyn Bridge. (Foto by Arthur Fellig.)New York Daily News, July 29, 1940, p. 18


New York Herald Tribune, August 4, 1940

Heat-Wave Nocturne in Downtown New York. Herald Tribune – Acme.New York Herald Tribune, August 4, 1940

77 years ago today, July 29, 1940, was the first time this image appeared in print in the New York Daily News. There were two titles in different editions, “Striking Beauty” and the more common “Strike Two.” Shortly afterward, it was printed in the Sunday gravure section of the New York Herald Tribune on August 4th, 1940.

This series, Naked City (annotated), of blog posts will attempt to provide context, images, and objects related to the photos in Weegee’s “Naked City.”

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