The Magazine

Night Vision

The Dance of Death, with flashbulbs and film.

Apr 9, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 29 • By STEFAN BECK
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I arrived right in the heart of Little Italy, 10 Prince Street. Here’s a guy had been bumped off in the doorway of a little candy store. .  .  . The detectives are all over, but all the five stories of the tenement, people are on the fire escape. They’re looking; they’re having a good time. Some of the kids are even reading the funny papers and the comics. There was another pho-tographer there and he made what we call a 10 foot shot. He made a shot of just the guy laying in the doorway. .  .  . I stepped all the way back, about a hundred feet. I used flash powder, and I got this whole scene—the people on the fire escapes, the body, everything. Of course the title for it was Balcony Seats at a Murder.

Among the many artifacts on view here, courtesy of curator Brian Wallis, the one most faithful to the Weegee experience is a check stub from Life, $35 for “two murders.” Blood money? The model of Usher Fellig’s shabby quarters lies waiting to rebuke anyone who’d accuse him of exploitation or opportunism. Part of his working night was spent looking, having a good time. The greater part was spent translating human frailty into a vocabulary any dope could understand.

If that’s a crime, we’re all accomplices.

Stefan Beck writes on fiction for the New Criterion and elsewhere.

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