This essay will be a comparison of two photographers, namely, Weegee (Arthur Fellig) and Robert Capa.
The Two photographers documented both political and newsworthy events, Weegee remaining to photograph in New York. Capa spending most of his time abroad, taking pictures of war was his speciality, Weegee’s being urban life.
Both photographers even lived and worked around similar times in history, Weegee from 1899 – 1968, Capa from 1913 – 1954.
Weegee (1899 – 1968)
Weegee photographed urban life, documenting violent crimes, disasters, survivors and onlookers. In the 1930’s & 40’s he gained international attention through his work for New York newspapers and photo syndicates, his work was gritty and portrayed people dealing with situations we cannot imagine.
He spent 3 years as a passport photographer when he was hired in 1924 by Acme newspapers. Leaving Acme in 1935 to freelance as a police beat photographer on the night shifts. Soon his photographs were being published in nearly all of New York’s papers
He really gained respect and attention when his book ‘naked city’ was published, containing his crime photographs and gritty images of the less fortunate side of New York.
Weegee stopped with the crime photography and began advertising assignments for Vogue, Holiday, Life, Look and Fortune. He later began a series of photo-caricatures and distortions of celebrities and politicians.
After this he began to lecture his work throughout the USA, Russia and Europe. He was a neglected figure by the time he passed away in 1968.
Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Robert Capa was born Andrei Friedmann in Budapest in 1913.
Andrei and his wife formed an association of three people. Gerda was to serve as secretary and sales representative; Andrei was to be a darkroom hired hand and these two were to be employed by a rich, famous, talented (and imaginary) American photographer named Robert Capa. Returning to Europe, he photographed the Spanish war until its end in early 1939.
Capa later moved into Sicily with the paratroopers and went on to the attack in the cold winter campaign of 1943-44. Soon after he left Italy for London, and a wild intermission of poker playing and partying with many famous friends.
On June 6, 1944, Robert Capa landed on Omaha Beach. Stumbling ashore under heavy fire, he exposed four rolls of the most famous films in history. Unfortunately, all but eleven frames were ruined in Life’s London laboratory.
Capa wanted no more war, but he could not resist covering the birth of Israel in 1949 with Irwin Shaw. By this time he had also participated, in the birth of Magnum Photos, the first and only international cooperative agency of freelance photographers.
Capa became an businessman, selling and stimulating the work of Magnum photographers.
Capa wrote several pieces for Holiday. He already had four books to his credit: “Death in the Making” on the Spanish Civil War, “Waterloo Bridge” on the London Blitz, “A Russian Journal,” with John Steinbeck narrative, and “Slightly Out of Focus” on World War II. brb, nature summons me. damn this human body.
In 1954 Capa went to Japan. His luck ran out. They found him still clutching his camera. He was killed by a land-mine.
Photographs : Weegee
Man arrested for murdering a Murder in hells kitchen.
Photographs : Robert Capa
Omaha beach landing A murdered soldier.
Analysis & Comparison
Weegee – Man arrested for murdering a Police man.
This image shows three men, two of who can be assumed to be policemen as they arrest the third, from looking at the title we can verify this is indeed a man being arrested for murdering a policeman. On the right hand side of the image we can see what is an instrument for measuring a mans height.
It is easy to see the third man is powerless with the two taller, more solid figures ‘boxing’ him into the photograph. His eyes are staring either down at the floor or are closed, a clear sign of submission and perhaps regret.
The photograph would have been taken as a ‘spur of the moment’ type thing, but probably chosen from a number of photographs taken during this arrest. The composition of the image is also interesting, the layout of the men helps to lead your eye through a diagonal line across the image.
We are told a past, present and future in this photograph, the murderer has committed this crime, been caught and will go to prison. We don’t know if he is guilty, or why he has been accused or indeed the details of the murder, but we get a sense he is guilty.
The criminal is wearing slightly worn clothing and has what looks to be a plaster over his left eye. Perhaps from his arrest? Or from the crime he committed?
The light source in the photograph will almost certainly be from the flash of the camera, as an unnatural light settles the scene.
Weegee – Murder in hells kitchen.
This photograph reveals a corpse and murder scene as it was left. He has not yet been moved from the moment he died.
The man is lying face down on the concrete with a trickle of blood leaving his head. This suggests he was shot in the head, making it almost impossible for him to survive. The way he is laying suggests he died almost instantly and just fell to the floor, his legs and arms do not lay flat or comfortably at all but rather sprawled and awkward.
The composition has a very low view point, weegee would not have been standing up when he took this image but more kneeling down to get both the gun and corpse into the frame.
The gun lying next to him is certainly the murder weapon. Or perhaps he was carrying the gun, was shot, fell and dropped his gun in front of him?
The title ‘murder in hells kitchen’ tells us where he was killed, in his own home, the kitchen to be exact. If the murderer dropped the weapon then it would appear he made a hasty get-away, just dropping the weapon and leaving.
The light is un-natural and certainly comes from the flash of the camera. A dark, cold concrete floor was this mans death scene, indeed ‘murder in hells kitchen’.
Robert Capa – Omaha beach landing.
This photograph shows Americans landing at Omaha beach, we know this from the title.
We see what must be American soldiers with their backs to the camera running through the seawater toward shore. A haze of shadows lies in front of them, awaiting them, but it is impossible to make out exactly what they are, friend or foe? We can see not only soldiers in the water, but barricades too, to stop the boats coming closer to shore?
The light cast over everything is certainly natural light, the sky seems relatively clear and cloud free. The photographer’s situation in the middle of a battle scene must make taking photographs a great deal harder. It is possible that Capa would have taken many rolls of film with just a few good images on each one. Or perhaps by luck?
The focal point is hard to choose but it would appear to be the hazed horizon the soldiers are running towards, leading your eye up to the sky.
Robert Capa – A murdered soldier.
At first your eye is not drawn to the corpse laying across the floor in the photograph, attention is focused onto the bright white light flooding in from the window. You then look down to see someone, collapsed, a trail of blood leaving.
The title assures us this is indeed a soldier, the equipment on his back and uniform he is wearing confirm this to us.
From the blood and the position he is lying in, it is almost certain the man is dead and has been for some time, to allow the blood to slowly seep out across the floor, The title confirms this.
The focal point of the photograph is the window, that white light filtering down to the corpse gives it an almost tragic quality. Perhaps a statement from Robert Capa about how sickening he thought the war was?
All the photographs are of murder or war, which really go hand in hand. They were shot in a documentary, accurate way. The photographs show what the eyes would, without anything having been added to it.
Weegee’s images were of new-york city crime scenes, both in a very grungy, harsh style. In the case of his second photograph, it is difficult to feel pity for the victim, we don’t know what kind of man he was, he himself could have been a terrible criminal and deserved no better. All the unanswered questions weegee leaves with his images is what makes them special
The images from Robert Capa show nothing but the troubles and spoils of war. The second image of a dead soldier lying in his blood is a great deal more violent and aggressive than the first of soldiers running towards a bank, giving different views of war, not just gore and battle.
The photographers captured news events and storys, one only in New York, the other, all around the world! But both were highly respected in their time and are still so today, producing some of the finest photographs of their time and times to come.
We know for a fact that Weegee cropped and adjusted his images to focus their emotional values, this meant he had a great deal of control over what the final product was and how it would affect people, cropping to allow for a more emotional piece. Capa did not, he would accept the image as it came out, giving it a more factual feel, his images had less strength than those of weegees.
The two photographers took images exclusively in black and white but we know colour film already existed. Weegee may have taken his photographs in black and white. This may have been because the photographs would go into a newspaper and would be printed in black and white anyway, but black and white is sometimes more effective at getting an emotion or meaning across, this was probably the main reason both photographers printed like this.
Weegee : Murder In Hells Kitchen
Weegee : Man arrested for murdering a police man.
Robert Capa – Omaha beach landing.
Robert Capa – A murdered soldier.