Simply Add Boiling Water

Object Details


Simply Add Boiling Water


Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899 - 1968)




negative before July 1937; print about 1950


Gelatin silver print


33.7 × 26.3 cm (13 1/4 × 10 3/8 in.)


© International Center of Photography

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A dramatic nighttime fire at a New York City kitchen products factory provided Weegee with an opportunity to exhibit some wry humor. Just below where the water cannons douse the fire, and almost centered in the frame, a sign reads "SIMPLY ADD BOILING WATER." Weegee's intentionally ironic composition enhanced his chance of selling the image to newspapers, something that was always in the forefront of his mind as a freelance photographer.

Weegee's dramatic high contrast print nevertheless subtly reveals the tones of the building's facade at night. Glaring white ambulance lights, lamplight, and chutes of water from a fire truck mix with the ghostly glow of fire and steam. Using a combination of flashbulbs, and by some accounts flash powder, Weegee generated enough light to capture this scene.

Neither Speech nor Language: Photography and the Written Word (February 28 to May 12, 1991)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), February 28 to May 12, 1991
Scene of the Crime: Photo by Weegee (September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), September 20, 2005 to January 22, 2006