WEEGEE "JACKIE KENNEDY DISTORTION", c. 1960
Arthur Felling, better known as Weegee (1899-1968) was a highly-successful (and notorious) photojournalist. In addition to contributing an enormous number of images to various American newspapers, he would become famous, beyond New York and news circles, after the publication of Naked City (1945) and Weegee's People (1946).
Weegee's images of New York City crime, mishaps and tragedy are iconic and influential. Less well-known, however, is the work he focused on during the last twenty years of his life: known as the 'distortions' period. In the late 1940s, Weegee began experimenting with photographic manipulation both in the darkroom and using an array of filters.
Weegee created distortions of a wide range of subjects; celebrities, architecture, circus life, and nudes.
"Jackie Kennedy Distortion" is a superb example of one of Weegee's images from this era. Caricatured but still recognizable, the photo of the First Lady of the United States is an exercise of creativeness and interpretation as opposed to photographic reporting and documentation.
Weegee's satirical images of celebrity pre-date Warhol's silkscreens by almost a decade. Similarly, many of the themes Weegee was exploring in these distortions, such as the cult of the artist, the cost of fame and the power/ubiquity of film stars, were expanded upon by Warhol in the 1960's. The artists knew each other and Weegee actually photographed Warhol on several occasions both straight on and as a distortion.
Weegee’s photography can be found in scores of museums and private collections worldwide: the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; International Center of Photography, New York and more. “Jackie Kennedy Distortion” can be found in the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s collection.
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USA, circa 1960
Gelatin silver print
Stamped photographer’s credit in blue ink with pencil notations (verso)
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