DescriptionArthur Fellig (1899-1968), better known as Weegee, was one of a kind. Born in Poland as Usher, he changed his name to Arthur when arriving in the US in 1909. Weegee gained prominence, as a NYC based freelance photographer wielding the classic 4x5' Speed Graphic (with flash attached) when several of his gritty shots of street life were included in a Museum of Modern Art group show. A self proclaimed vulgarian, a cigar (mostly unlit) perpetually hung from his lips. His was the night noir crime beat. He monitored the police band on his portable radio and had a complete darkroom in his car trunk. A shameless self promoter, he once claimed to have photographed a thousand murders, mostly of gangsters lying in a pool of blood. His most famous image, 'The Critic,' he had staged; hiring a bag lady to give a disgusted look when two bejeweled, ermine wrapped matrons arrived at the Metropolitan Opera.His first book, in 1946, entitled 'Naked City,' inspired the 1948 film noir motion picture of the same name. He left for Hollywood in 1946 where he was also an actor and consultant. Weegee can be seen as the bell ringer in the opening credits of Robert Wise's 1949 film noir RKO boxing classic, 'The Set-Up.' Stanley Kubrick had been a boy wonder photographer of the New York streets for Look magazine. He hired Arthur as a consultant on his film, 'Dr. Strangelove.'Joe Pesci played a thinly veiled Weegee in 1992's 'The Public Eye,' which incorporated some of his NYC images. And the neo-noir 'Stormy Monday'(1988) had a club featuring enormous blowups of Wegee's photos on the walls. While he cracked the art world in 1943 at the MOMA, he had no view toward posterity. He routinely threw his negatives and prints into a barrel. I once saw a show of original Weegee prints at Tucson's Center for Creative Photography. They were curled and had a hideous, spotted and faded brown look which comes from not being properly fixed. He must have just sloshed the print a few times in his fixer tray i
David Lee Guss, Caaa Grande, Arizona Member Since November 2009 Artist Statement I first became obsessed with photography and motion pictures while growing up in post WW2 Manila in the Philippine Islands in the late 1940's/early 1950's. Film noirs were a particular influence.
But my first love remains the theater. I acted in numerous amateur productions from 1958 to 1978. In 1979 I earned a MA in drama from the University of Arizona; earlier getting a BA in English from the University of Minnesota, where I co-founded and ran for four years the first film society on campus. While at the U of A, I studied with the master black and white photo essayist W. Eugene Smith (1918-1978) the last year of his life. I am the last person cited in Jim Hughes' definitive biography of Gene, as I wrote about attending his final class days before his death.
I still consider myself an amateur photographer as almost all my work displayed here has been self assignments. After graduating from an announcing school in Minneapolis in 1964 I began employment as a news anchorman/booth announcer/writer/still photographer, at the now defunct KXAB TV in Aberdeen, South Dakota, without having taken a journalism course or ever have taken a photograph. I bluffed my way into the job. Being essentially my own boss of a one man news team, I could repeatedly blunder and bury my numerous mistakes. There I began my thematic, photo essays as stories for broadcast in black and white slide form. I found photography much more rewarding than being a media celebrity.
After an abortive try at the Peace Corps I landed at KVOA TV in Tucson, Arizona in April 1967 as a news editor/cinematographer. I continued with the photo essays now shot on negative film, and printed/ rephotographed with 16mm film. My only on air appearances were when I did "stand-uppers" or interviews.
Since then I have spent decades as a teacher of arts related subjects (acting, film making/history, creative writing, art history, literature and photography, English, etc. in various community colleges, universities and prison facilities in Arizona.
My images, with the captions and descriptions, speak for themselves. I am presently building a website (vanishingamericanwest.com) which will feature my photo essays and short films.
My photo essays are in numerous archives/museums in the US and Europe. I am the only living photographer who has his own archive at the University of Arizona Special Collections Library: http://aao.lib.asu.edu/ViewRecordFrame.jsp?record=0000001158
My prize winning short films/videos have been screened at festivals in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan. Malta and Spain; and on many US cable systems.
Since 1994 I have lived in an adobe house in Casa Grande, Arizona.