Iconic Photos

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Posts Tagged ‘Weegee

Death of a Beautiful Woman

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It almost looks like a glamor shot magazines like Face or advertisers like United Colors of Benetton often throws your way. Her blonde hair looked so soft, her manicured fingernails so red, her glistening bracelet and handbag so readily beside, the red cross aide so solicitous in bending over her that you can almost feel like it has been staged. The woman was an actress named Adela Legarreta Rivas, but she was actually hit by a car and killed on Mexico City’s Avenida Chapultepec in 1979.

She was draped across a fallen pole, her arm hanging like a rag doll’s around it, the bridge of her perfect nose intersected by a single line of blood. It seems as if Edgar Allen Poe, he who elevated deaths of beautiful women into sublime art and said such death is “the most poetical topic in the world”, had taken this photo, but the man who captured this image was Enrique Metinides. Metinides, whose photos often looked like stills from pulp graphic novels and film noirs, is the most accomplished photographer for the Mexican version of tabloid press, the nota roja. As its name (bloody news) suggests, nota roja covers not celebrity scandals, but death and destruction: car crashes, fires, shootouts, suicides, etc.

Metinides is often called Mexican Weegee, but unlike Weegee, Metinides did not tune nightly into the police radio; he volunteered with Red Cross and often arrived at the scene with an ambulance crew. He photographed his first dead body before he was 12, a feat that earned him a nickname El Niño – the Kid – for his precocity. Although his work is not widely known outside of Mexico, this may be changing with a New York show in 2006, and a Time magazine feature recently.

See Time Magazine or Los Angeles Times for more graphic images from Enrique Metinides.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

The Critic | The Fashionable People

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“The Critic” is probably Weegee’s most famous image, and certainly his most widely published. The opening night of the Metropolitan Opera in 1943 was the Diamond Jubilee occasion to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the company. Although Weegee claimed that he “discovered” the shabby woman viewing the opera patrons on the right only after the negative had been developed, the truth was that he staged this photo.

Weegee has been planning this photograph for a while. Weegee’s assistant picked up an intoxicated woman from a bar. As Mrs. George Washington Kavenaugh and Lady Decies — generous benefactors to numerous cultural institutions in New York and Philadelphia — arrived, the assistant released the drunk woman into the vicinity. Weegee claimed he took this picture in a wartime black-out but his incredulous editor refused to use it. Weegee cropped the image and took it to LIFE magazine printed with the caption, “The plain people waited in line for hours to get standing room, listened intently and, as always, showed better musical manners than the people sitting in boxes.” This contrast of images, the rich with the jewels, and the well-mannered “plain people” was exactly what Weegee was striving for in all of his photography. The incongruence of life, between the rich and poor, the victims and the rescued, the murdered and the living – his photographs had the ability to make us all eyewitnesses and voyeurs. The first time the photo appeared with the actual title, “The Critic,” was in Weegee’s own book, The Naked City. The photo became so famous that the book was brought by Hollywood for a movie of the same name.

The photograph was quickly discovered by the Nazis and alleged used as propaganda; underneath the image were the words, “GIs, is this what you’re fighting for?”

(In case you were wondering, the opening opera that night was Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. The horse in the fourth act nearly ran away with the tenor as he bravely sang on).

See Weegee Museum; Smithsonian Magazine.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

June 1, 2009 at 7:19 am

Posted in Culture, Society

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