Where in the world is the “Naked City”?

Since 2020 is a census year (have you filled out your census yet? If not you can do it here: my2020census.gov) and coincidentally this is the year that Weegee’s magnum opus Naked City was republished (by Damiani and ICP), many, many months ago, in what seems like another time and place, long before we were self-isolating and socially distancing, we sent our intrepid census taker out into the heights and depths of Weegee’s Naked City to make an unofficial survey of the population and to map Weegee’s Naked City.

Weegee (1899-1968), Simply Add Boiling Water, December 1943 (150.1982)

(Water & Dover Sts., below the Brooklyn Bridge. Naked City page 53.)

There are approximately 1,078 people in Weegee’s Naked City. That does not include the million not-naked, pre-war, sun-worshipers on a super-hot Sunday at Coney Island in July 1940… Let’s include them, since they came early, stayed late and everybody is welcome in the Naked City, then the estimated population of Weegee’s Naked City is 1,001,078 people. In 1940 the population of New York City was 7,454,995; in 2010 it was 8,175,133.

Weegee (1899-1968), [Police and bystanders with body of Stanley Sandler, a passenger in an automobile that crashed into a Third Avenue El pillar and caught fire, New York], April 16, 1942 (965.1993)

(654 Third Avenue between East 41st and 42nd Streets. Naked City page 89.)

All of the 229 photos in Naked City were made in New York City. An estimated 18 photos were made in Brooklyn (including 14 from Coney Island), the rest, about 211, were made in Manhattan. Approximately 66 photos were made in Midtown (including Times Square), 30 were made on the Bowery, 20 in the Lower East Side, 16 in Harlem, and 5 in Chinatown.

Weegee (1899-1968), Their First Murder, October 8, 1941 (13.1997)

(250 North 6th St., Brooklyn, New York. Naked City page 87.)

What are the residents of Weegee’s Naked City doing? 44 are sleeping, 16 people are kissing, and 23 are dead. There are 5 photos of people dancing, 7 of people drinking, 90 photos of people looking (and posing), 22 photos of people walking, and 54 photos of people working. Like the photographer, a lot of Weegee’s people are looking and working.

Weegee (1899-1968), The Critic, November 22, 1943 (146.1982)

(Metropolitan Opera, 1411 Broadway. Naked City pp. 130-131.)

Weegee’s Naked City is nocturnal. When it was discernible, 156 photos were made at night and 55 were made during the day. 145 photos were made outside and 91 were made inside. More significantly, there’s more than people in the Naked City. A census of the animals in Naked City reveals the presence of three cats, four dogs, one elephant, two giraffes, two horses, one seal, and two zebras.

Weegee (1899-1968), [Time Is Short, Little Italy, New York], 1942 (3066.1993)

(375 Broome St. Naked City page 211.)

Since time is short, every minute counts, and we can not explore Weegee’s Naked City in person right now, perhaps we can explore it vicariously, through the magic of maps. Soon we’ll see the joy of living in real life, until then, we present, in page order…

A Weegee’s Naked City map:

(Clicking on the square-like thing in the upper right corner opens a larger map in a new window.)

Weegee’s Naked City is everywhere…

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1 Response to Where in the world is the “Naked City”?

  1. Nice post! Loved the map. You always go that extra proverbial mile to give it ALL to your readers.

    For those that have not heard from Weegee, here is a rare audio recording of him where he sums up what is needed for street photography in one sentence…’you can’t be a nice Nellie and do (street) photography.’


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