But the effect here is surprising needed, and inspired. When viewers are turned back by a clutch of intent readers, they refocus their attention on the photos and ephemera, looking more closely. And, wonderfully, when those same viewers finally reach the wall panels, they stop—I’ve never seen so many museumgoers reading so intently—and they engage. The wealth of information available means that no single activity—looking or reading—can be maintained for too long. Once they’ve finished reading, viewers go back to absorbing what the images themselves tell. They tell a great deal.
Weegee, the founding father of contemporary American crime photojournalism, gets a close-up at I.C.P.
In one particular photo at the exhibit Weegee: Murder Is My Business (at the International Center for Photography through September 2), one can see all that made the pioneering photojournalist an icon of the early 20th century’s underbelly. Taken at the scene of a murder, the photo shows a woman is swooning in the midst of a crowd of children. The kids, just out from school, lend the picture its title, Their First Murder. The woman, who is the victim’s aunt, gives it a fulcrum around which the children’s nervous energy surges. This is Weegee at his best, providing a hard-boiled chronicle of city life and death, while also managing to elevate such human drama to the level of lasting art. It was a trick the famed photographer rarely let people forget he possessed.