I went to see the Weegee: Murder is my Business exhibit at the International Center of Photography in New York City this past weekend. Years ago a friend directed a play about Weegee, I don’t remember very much, just the images projected onto the back wall and that it ran in reverse chronology. But it was fun; the photos are fun, despite the content. There is a fantastical quality to Weegee’s photographs. Something of the carnival barker lives in them. The thing I find most interesting is that his most prevalent subject, ostensibly the corpse, is really the spectators: the people surrounding the recently departed – cops, other reporters or excited crowds. The faces of the spectators place the photos so firmly in the historic period: that moment in time after people were already used to photographic images, but not yet jaded by the over-exposure. In one photo of a crowd of hundreds and hundreds of people at Coney Island NO ONE is too cool to look at the camera.
There were other exhibits there as well. The Magnum Contact Sheets were a wonderful example of the off hand beauty found in a process that is now sadly passé. Trent Parks’s 7th Wave and Josef Koudelka’s Prague sheets were wonderful. A contact sheet isn’t a group of perfect photos. It’s that one (or two) perfect photo with all the imperfect ones leading up to and away: the movement that comes across is very nice. And now nostalgic as well.
Chein-Chi Chang and Greg Girard had wonderful photos in the Perspectives exhibit. Chang’s were intimate photos of immigrant families, the composition and rich tones were really beautiful. Girard had a series of photos of American bases mostly in Japan. I found them fascinating; the Japanese personality of place was so completly transformed by the “mini-Americas” that were the bases. It was surreal.
The final exhibit I saw was The Loving Story by Greg Villet. Very nice photographs documenting the Lovings, an interracial couple arrested for “illegally” returning to their home-state as husband and wife. It’s a poignant historical story of racism, forbidden love, and human grace.
Most of us see a lot of photographs everyday, mostly online. Seeing them in person, the scale, the quality of the paper and color was a genuine treat.