Weegee Wednesdays: Keeping Cool and Wet in the Summer, Day and Night, During the Hottest Days of the Year, Early 1940s, New York City

Weegee, [Children playing in water sprayed from an open fire hydrant, Upper West Side. New York], ca. 1945 (Weegee Portfolio 14)

Weegee, [Children playing in water sprayed from an open fire hydrant, Lower East Side, New York], 1942 (880.1993)

Weegee, [Woman sprayed with water from an open fire hydrant, New York], ca. 1943 (14503.1993, 14504.1993, 14506.1993)

Weegee, [Boy spraying woman with water from an open fire hydrant, New York], ca. 1943 (14508.1993)

Weegee, [Man sprayed with water from an open fire hydrant, New York], ca. 1943 (14509.1993)

Weegee, [Girls playing in water in the street, New York], ca. 1943 (698.1993)

Weegee, [Adults and children playing in an open fire hydrant on the hottest day of the year, New York], (2394.1993)

Yes, It Was The Hottest Day of the Year All Right, All Right
Yesterday thermometer showed 92.6 at 4:45 p.m. – highest of 1942. At 1 a.m. yesterday it was 85, that was when this man opened the fire hydrant. PM, July 20, 1942

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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Happy Birthday Marcel Duchamp: “There are too many artists. When there are so many artists, all possible, all good, then nothing is good “

Hans Richter (1888-1976), Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1947 (2009.18.2)

Marcel Duchamp. French painter, Cubist, Dadaist, artist and antiartist. Born Blainville, France, 1887 preoccupied with the esthetics of machinery. First ‘ready made’ objects, 1914. Great composition in painted glass ‘Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors,’ 1915-1923. Influenced Dada movement, 1916-20. Abandoned painting in the early twenties for chess. Associated with Surrealist movement. Now living in New York.

Hans Richter (1888-1976), Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1947

Alexander Liberman (1912-1999), Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), New York City, 1959 (174.1990)

His face tortured with subtleties, his hands moving in a courtly ballet, Marcel Duchamp has a strange, regal presence, an ecclesiastical authority. Only the prelate’s robes are missing. He is a truly Renaissance man, a curious mixture of poetry, earthiness, and cunning. In his New York apartment are many sets of chess, the game with which he is obsessed, perhaps because in it he finds a sublimation for power. Duchamp is a professional chess-player. “I never abandoned painting for chess,” he said. “That is a legend. It is always that way. Just because a man starts to paint does not mean he has to go on painting. He isn’t even obliged to abandon it. He just doesn’t do it any more, just as one doesn’t make omelets if he prefers meat. I do not see the need to classify people, and, above all, to treat painting as a profession. I don’t see why people try to make civil servants out of painters, officials of the Ministry of Fine Arts. There are those who obtain medals and those who make paintings.”
Duchamp is the aristocrat of modern art. He has the haughtiness that comes with the dismissal of creative torment. He has put an end to his creative suffering; but even before this his hands did not be sullied for him to create. He had the arrogant vision to see and to confer art upon what he deigned to see.
Marcel Duchamp, the man who painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa to show his contempt and irreverence for the sacrosanct attitudes that he felt were stifling the creativeness of young artists, shocked America with his Nude Descending a Staircase, in the 1913 New York Armory Show. He was one of the first dadaists, the group which started out in 1916 as a revolt against traditional art. His was a revolt against academic aesthetics; he wanted art without art. Marcel Duchamp was one of the first to discover the “ready-made”; he realized that the everyday object could be transformed by artistic selection into an object with aesthetic qualities.
During our conversation he said, “There are too many artists. When there are so many artists, all possible, all good, then nothing is good. In each century there are no more than one or two geniuses. Otherwise art becomes a profession, a handicraft, and a painter makes a good painting just as a cabinetmaker makes a good piece of furniture.
“Today the artist is free, free to die of hunger. An artist should have no social obligations. If he marries, has children, he very soon becomes a victim. He must earn money to feed his family. Only one person who does not have to be fed is easier than three or four. To increase the number of people around an artist is a calamity. By forty or fifty he can earn his living comfortably, but thirty years have gone by during which he had to compromise to do it. An artist must be an egotist. He must be completely blind to other human beings – egocentric in the grand manner. It is unavoidable, one cannot create great things if he is only half involved and in doubt.
“The life of an artist is like the life of a monk, a lewd monk if you like, very Rabelaisian. It is an ordination.”

Alexander Liberman, The Artist in His Studio. New York: Random House, 1988, p. 244

Alexander Liberman papers, circa 1912-2003.
Marcel Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Alexander Liberman (1912-1999), Marcel Duchamp’s Hands, New York City, 1959-60 (157.1990)

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Weegee Wednesdays: 75 Tears Ago Today

PM, July 22, 1940, pp 16-17

Yesterday at Coney Island… Temperature 89… They Came Early, Stayed Late

Cameraman Reports On Lost Kids, Parking Troubles
Weegee, whose real name is Arthur Fellig, took this picture at four in the afternoon. The temperature was 89 degree. The Coney Island Chamber of Commerce guessed there were 1,000,000 people. Nobody really knows.
Herewith is Weegee’s own story of his visit to Coney Island.

Saturday was very hot. So I figured Sunday ought to be a good day to make crowd shots at Coney Island. I arrived at the beach at Coney at 4 a.m., Sunday. The beach was crowded mostly with young couples lying on the beach covered with blankets. I took pictures of them. When I asked them their names they all said, “It’s just me and the wife,” as they pointed to the girl on the sand. I went back to the City.
I came back Sunday afternoon. I knew the rush was on when I looked for a parking lot to leave my car. All of them were full and were charging $1 to park the car. That was too much, considering that the usual price for parking on Sunday is 15 to 25 cents.
All the blocks with the “No parking in this block” signs were filled up. I then started to look for a fire hydrant to park. They were filled up, too. After riding round for a half hour I finally parked in a fire zone just off the Boardwalk. I guess no one else thought of that spot.

“This Is Too Much!”

After making the crowd shot I went into the “Cage,” a little shack underneath the Boardwalk with the door and windows covered with chicken wire cooping. That’s where all the lost kids are brought in after they’re found on the beach. The place is run like a cafeteria. Parents come in and look around to see their lost kids and then take them home. Sunday the place was in an uproar.
The policewoman was excited and said to me: “I may be a policewoman, and I have a heart. But this is too much. One hundred and fifty lost kids is too much. I
haven’t eaten yet. I’m going to close up this place.”

No Play Wanted

On the way back to the city I was hailed by a female hitch hiker. “I’ve been waiting 15 minutes for a Surf Ave. street car,” she told me as she stepped into my
car. I left her off at her destination. She wanted to go home and change into a play suit and ride with me. But I told her I had too much work to do and not
enough time to play.
When I got back to the city I took a shower and finished my pictures. While I was at Coney I had two kosher frankfurters and two beers at a Jewish delicatessen
on the Boardwalk. Later on for a chaser I had five more beers, a malted milk, two root beers, three Coca Colas and two glasses of buttermilk. And five cigars, costing 19 cents.

75 years ago today…

Weegee, [Afternoon crowd at Coney Island, Brooklyn], July 22, 1940, (Weegee Portfolio 4)

Weegee Wednesday is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

Weegee’s New York (1948) from ICP on Vimeo.

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Weegee Wednesdays: “The city looks strange to me with the sunlight and people going to work”

PM, July 13, 1941, pp. 62-63. Photos by Weegee [Two days and 74 days ago]

Times Square, 4 a.m.: “What’s the gag?” asked Weegee. It was no gag. They had been to a party and decided to pipe their way to the subway. They wanted to take Weegee to a bar for a nightcap. He passed.

PM, July 13, 1941, pp. 62-63. Photos by Weegee [Two days and 74 years ago]

Upper Fifth Ave., 4 a.m. [5 a.m.?]: The street lights were turned out… two cars crashed. A badly cut-up youngster asks for a cigaret until the ambulance arrives. Weegee says cops resent accidents that happen around quitting time. Making out reports means overtime, no pay.

PM, July 13, 1941, pp. 62-63, Photos by Weegee [Two days and 74 years ago]

New York After Midnight

The Early Hours Bring Their Own Cycle of Events

The pictures on these pages were made on the streets of New York – after midnight. They were taken by Weegee, a free-lance photographer who sleeps by day and cruises the city in his car by night, a camera on the seat beside him, the police radio turned on full blast under his dashboard.
The New York that Weegee photographs is a city of gruesome, comic and tragic happenings. Some of these happenings Weegee comes upon by chance; others he finds when a radio alarm directs him to the scene of one of the after-midnight accidents, robberies, suicides and fires that are regular fare for the Police Department.
Weegee starts out at midnight, when the police alarms start coming in steadily over his radio. He’s often at the scene of a crime or accident before the police.
The signals that come over the radio, hour by hour, from midnight to dawn, Weegee says, form a regular pattern:

From midnight to 1 a.m.: Peeping Toms are reported at the windows of nurses’ homes and hotels: the younger hoodlums break into candy, food and auto supply stores.

From 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.: People see (or think they see) mysterious faces on fire escapes and report that burglars are prowling. Most people think they see, Weegee says. The prowlers are usually late home-comers, trying to sneak into bed.

From 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.: Delicatessen stores are burglarized.

From 3 a.m. to 4 a.m.: Bars close and drunks get into fights or refuse to go home.

At 5 a.m.: Street lights are turned out. The next hour, says Weegee, is the hour of awful automobile accidents.

Around 6 in the morning, most suicides jump from windows. Weegee thinks they choose that hour “because it’s the time of a person’s lowest resistance if they’ve been brooding.”

Just when most New Yorkers are leaving for work, Weegee starts for home and bed. “The city looks strange to me with the sunlight and people going to work,” he says. To these people – office workers, laborers, business men and women – the city that Weegee photographs probably would seem as strange as their day-time does to him.

Footnote to the Amsterdam Ave. in the 90’s, 6 a.m. photo: There are at least three versions of the caption to this image:

Amsterdam Ave. in the 90’s, 6 a.m.” He’s sleeping it off. There’s a pavement sleeper on almost every block after the bars close, Weegee says, “but why pick a funeral home, unless 711 is his lucky number?” PM, July 13, 1941, p. 62

I wanted to get a good drunk picture… I was doing a series for PM on New york street scenes.. But I didn’t want just a picture of bums in hallways… I wanted something different… after roaming the streets for 6 months.. I came across this scene one Sunday morning on Amsterdam Ave… (Typed caption on the verso of 2267.1993)

It was now almost six in the morning… it is still dark… but the church is open… and the early worshipers find solace inside… except for this tired Sunday traveler who, a few blocks away, finds a resting place underneath the canopy at number 711 Amsterdam Avenue… This avenue is full of saloons, and they are called just that… no fancy foreign names like Cocktail Lounges… So sleep on stranger… no one will bother you… not even the cops… Sunday is a good day for sleeping – so is any other day – when one is tired. Naked City, p. 19

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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Bastille Day, July 14

In preparation of the yearly Bastille Day celebration, Swiss born photographer Florence Henri documented men working on a scaffolding to install a banner of the French flag at the entrance of The Tuileries gardens in Paris in 1937. On the right and in the background the equestrian sculpture Fame mounted on Pegasus by Antoine Coysevox as well as other statues are visible in the gardens of the Louvre palace. The French National holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789,which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.

Florence HenriStructure, 1937 (150.1998)

Florence HenriStructure, 1937 (153.1998)

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Lowering the Confederate Flag

Thursday evening, July 9, 2015, Governor Nikki R. Haley signed into law a bill to lower the Confederate battle flag that had been waving at the South Carolina State House in Columbus for 50 years. After emotional debates among lawmakers and over three weeks after the Charleston massacre, the flag was ceremonially lowered this morning under loud cheers. The flag itself will be housed at the state-owned Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbus.

Nikki S. Lee
The Ohio Project (7), 1999 (224.2003)

Gillian Laub
Shelby, Mt. Vernon, Georgia, May 2008 (2013.91.8)

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Weegee Wednesdays: “I Like Everybody”

Weegee’s buttons

Weegee, like most geniuses, was born at the right time and place. The cultural, social, technological, political (William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson were some of the U.S. Presidents and William J. Gaynor, Jimmy Walker, Fiorello H. La Guardia, Robert F. Wagner, Jr., John Lindsay were some of the Mayors of New York City during Weegee’s lifetime – thanks Wikipedia) events, changes and innovations that occurred in the first half of the 20th century made Weegee’s work possible. Throughout his life Weegee was fully engaged in politics and culture (as is evident, in part, by the large quantity of experimental “distortions” and far out caricatures made in the last two decades of his life). In the 60s, and in his 60s, one way that Weegee was engaged in politics, contemporary youth culture, and language, was with his collection of groovy buttons, most likely bought in Greenwich Village or Times Square. Perhaps as an experiment and in the spirit of fun, some buttons were used in, or on, photographs taped to corrugated cardboard, as below, and some were rephotographed and incorporated in photo-montages. (Were these photo-objects: works-in-progress and unfinished experiments? Or finished works of art to be displayed in a museum?) The above is a short animation, repeated three times, of Weegee’s buttons.

Weegee, [Dump Johnson in ’68], 1960s (7161.1993)

Weegee, [Goldwater for President], 1960s (10804.1993)

Weegee, [Let’s Love One Another], 1960s (8812.1993)

Weegee Wednesdays is an occasional series exploring, or just enjoying, the life and work of Weegee.

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