Simply Add Boiling Water
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© International Center of Photography

Weegee (Arthur Fellig)
American, NYC, 1937; print, about 1950
Gelatin silver print
13 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.

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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.