Their First Murder / Weegee
© International Center of Photography

American, New York City, before 1945
Gelatin silver print
Image: 10 1/8 x 11 in.
Questions for Teaching

• What can you tell about each person in this photograph?

• Do you think everyone in the group is reacting to the same thing? How can you tell? What are they reacting to that we cannot see within the framing of this photograph? (Most of the kids in the photo are reacting to the camera, while some, including the two women, are reacting to a murder scene, which we do not see, outside of the image.)

• How do we you react in front of a camera?

• How are the women's expressions different from those of the kids?

• Where does this scene take place? (Outdoors on a street.)

• What do you think has happened to bring this group together? (Weegee has turned his camera off of his usual subject, the dead person, and instead focused on the surrounding crowd and its reactions.)

• How do we respond today when we hear about or see scenes of murder on the television?

Background Information

"A woman relative cried...but neighborhood dead-end kids enjoyed the show when a small-time racketeer was shot and killed," wrote Weegee in the caption accompanying this startling photograph in his 1945 publication Naked City. On the facing page Weegee showed the bloody body lying in the street.

Alternately laughing, staring in disbelief, or looking into the camera to grasp their own momentary chance to be recorded, the children who had witnessed this grisly scene form an unsettling amalgam of human emotion and self-absorption as they commune with the camera in the face of horror. Two women are among the group: one, whom Weegee mentioned above, stands at the center, her face contorted with anguished tears, her personal loss turned into public spectacle.

About the Artist

As legend tells it, Arthur Fellig earned the nickname Weegee during his early career as a freelance press photographer in New York City. His apparent sixth sense for crime often led him to a scene well ahead of the police. Observers likened this sense, actually derived from tuning his radio to the police frequency, to the Ouija board, the popular fortune-telling game. Spelling it phonetically, Weegee became Fellig's professional name.

With his subjects ranging from wild-eyed adolescent onlookers at a late night gangland slaying to glassy-eyed starlets at Hollywood movie premieres, Weegee could be considered one of the first ambulance chasers. He was as flamboyant as some of his subjects, creating his own mythology, reveling in his own notoriety as well as that of his subjects, and even stamping the backs of his pictures with "Credit Photo by Weegee the Famous."

Weegee also worked in Hollywood as a filmmaker, performer, and technical consultant.