“I typed my own captions for my pictures”


Unidentified Photographer, [Weegee putting on boots, New York], ca. 1943 (19767.1993)


Weegee (1899-1968), [Weegee at his typewriter in the trunk of his 1938 Chevy, New York], ca. 1943 (19639.1993)

Weegee’s Naked City is perhaps the only book in the entire history of book production that begins and concludes with end papers that feature a pair of photographs of the author/photographer putting on a pair boots and typing in back of his maroon colored car at night in the first half of the 1940s (during World War Two) in New York City. In the photo on the left page the author/photographer is putting on a pair of big rubber boots, smoking a cigar, wearing a camera bag, standing behind a car with an open trunk, and laughing. On the right page is a photo of the author/photographer sitting on a stool, smoking a cigar, holding a flashlight with one hand, and typing with one finger. (Unfortunately the typed page is largely illegible.) The keys are still in the lock, the trunk is open.

What is in the author/photographer’s trunk?
Let’s take a closer look:

A partial inventory:
1 Speed Graphic camera (Graflex), with flash attachment and reflector, with flashbulb
1 B & J Press Camera (Burke and James), with flash attachment and reflector, without flashbulb
1 Case of Wabash, Super Flash, Press 40, Photolamps (Flashbulbs)
8 4×5 film holders (numbered)
2 Camera bags
1 Pair of boots, size 8WW
1 Pair of shoes
1 Box J.F. Hernandez cigars (open)
1 Box La Planta Havana cigars
1 Typewriter
1 Spare tire

From the excellent biography, Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, of Weegee:

What he bought himself was a 1938 Chevrolet “business coupe,” a model ideally suited to his particular needs. It had no backseat, but it did have an immense trunk, more than five feet deep, with a high, domed lid. The Chevy coat him about $650 [$9,582 today], and he was proud of it – what could be more a sign that the boy from Zolochev had become a success in America than a fast, shiny automobile?
Christopher Bonanos. Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous, New York: Henry Holt, 2018, pp. 98-99


Weegee (1899-1968), Naked City, end pages, 1945

The print (19639.1993), above, with the orange-red numbers on the margins, was used in the production of Weegee by Weegee, 1961. The caption above the photo in the book reads: “I typed my own captions for my pictures.” The print was also used in the production of the recently republished, by Damiani and ICP, Naked City, 2020, available in libraries and book stores everywhere. The Weegee booting up (by the boot) and typing (by the trunk) photos are at the beginning and end of the exquisitely designed and printed book; the photos (shine a light on and) are a reminder that one of the best (and under acknowledged, lesser known, and enjoyable) elements of Naked City are Weegee’s words…

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