Weegee was born Usher Fellig in Zloczew, Austria in 1899. His hometown is now in Poland. His name was changed to Arthur at Ellis Island when he came with his family to live in New York's Lower East Side in 1910. He quit school at age 14 to help support his family, working at odd jobs and as an itinerant street photographer and assistant to a commercial photographer.
Fellig had been a passport photographer for three years when he was hired in 1924, at the age of 25, as a darkroom technician by Acme Newspictures. This company soon became United Press International Photos. Almost ten years later, he left Acme in 1935 to freelance as a police beat photographer on the night shift.
Fellig gained a reputation for knowing where disaster would strike next, hence the name "Weegee:" a reference to the famous fortune-teller's Ouija board. He was aided in scooping competing photographers by carefully monitoring police and fire-department radio dispatches.
In 1938, Weegee became the first photographer to obtain permission to install police radio equipment in his car.
Weegee had a gift for self-promotion which led to his stamping the backs of his prints with "Credit Photo: Weegee the Famous" in the early 1940s. He did not become truly famous, however, until the publication of his book, Naked City, the rights to which were bought by Hollywood for a film and television series. This book contained his crime photography and images of New York City's lonely and dispossessed misfits. In addition to the hard-flash, frontal shots that were his trademark, Weegee made photographs with infrared flash and film, which allowed him to work as unobtrusively as possible.
For several years from the mid-1940s on, Weegee abandoned crime photos and concentrated on advertising assignments for publications such as...