In the middle of the twentieth century, a newspaper photographer who went by the name of Weegee took memorable pictures of New York City’s street life that appeared everywhere from tabloid newspapers to seminars on the history of photography. Christopher Bonanos’ book Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous (Henry Holt and Company, 2018), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, tells the story of his life from his childhood as an immigrant street kid on the Lower East Side to his years photographing murder scenes to his experiments with caricatures of celebrities. As Bonanos observes, Weegee “very early on grasped that the distinction between high culture and low culture was growing blurry.” Out of that insight he made a career and a body of work that tell us a lot about New York City, its journalism, and photography.
Robert W. Snyder, professor emeritus of American Studies and Journalism at Rutgers-University-Newark and Manhattan Borough Historian, is the author of Crossing Broadway: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York and co-author of All the Nations Under Heaven: Immigrants, Migrants and the Making of New York. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.