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Weegee

I Cried When I Took This Picture

1939

Artist

Weegee (1899-1968)

Title

I Cried When I Took This Picture

Date

1939

Medium

Gelatin silver print

Dimensions

Sheet: 10 15/16 × 13 7/8 in. (27.8 × 35.2 cm) Image: 10 1/2 × 13 7/16 in. (26.7 × 34.1 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Denise Rich

Accession number

96.90.5

Object Label

Weegee shot this photograph at the scene of a New York City fire. He was often more interested in a catastrophe’s onlookers than its victims, training his lens here on the grief-stricken faces of two women on the ground below a burning building. The pair is framed in darkness, and the photographer’s signature strong flash has blanched their skin in a dramatic effect he called “Rembrandt lighting.” Yet although Weegee intentionally played to his audience’s voyeuristic impulses, and was himself steeled to the tragedies he witnessed, he was also sympathetic to his subjects’ plights. He titled this image when it was published in his first collection of photographs, Naked City (1945), adding the following caption: “Mother and daughter cry and look up hopelessly as another daughter and her young baby are burning to death in the top floor of the tenement. . .firemen couldn’t reach them in time. . .on account of the stairway collapsing.”

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