Posts Tagged ‘New York’

WEEGEE

5 December 2008

Who’s Weegee?

Well, for me, Weegee is the name I kept coming across in my photography books in the 1970s, then later in album covers and book jackets in the early 1990s.

Weegee was an artist — a photographer — based in New York, USA. I later found out that he was born in Poland as Arthur Fellig, and that he died in 1968. But all that’s unimportant. It’s his pictures that matter, that’s all.

[Photography by weegee called 'coney island']I came to Weegee through a picture I found hilarious and fascinating at the same time. It is known as “Coney island” and is just a massive crowd of people at the beach on a hot summer’s day.

It is rude to stare, but this photograph allowed close inspection of everything and anything that caught your attention — a voyeur’s pleasure! Every time I looked at it, I would see something new.  I appreciated that Weegee had climbed to some high vantage point, and I understood the irony of having a “sea” of people at the beach.  I am glad this is not in colour; black and white is what allows things to be seen that otherwise would go unnoticed.  One would need to be Diane Arbus to make this sort of thing work in colour!

[Picture of George Michael Album Cover 'Listen without prejudice vol1']George Michael’s  album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1 (1990, Sony), was clearly influenced by Weegee’s  “Coney Island” — in fact I thought it was Weegee’s!

You see, that’s the thing about Weegee: he influenced so many, and his stuff crops up in the most unlikely places.  For example, his “Hell’s Kitchen” was used as an album sleeve by saxophonist John Zorn for Naked City on the Warner label (also, strangely, from 1990).

[Photograph by weegee 'Hell's kitchen']

Now, I can’t say that I like “Hell’s Kitchen”; it is a crime scene of murder weapon and victim — not the nicest of subjects! However, Weegee makes such gory situations interesting by then turning his camera onto the crowd of onlookers and passers-by — and we get LEVELS of voyeurism!  We are voyeuristically looking at what a voyeuristic photojournalist sees when looking at crime scene voyeurs! This is “Their First Murder”:

Their First Murder]

OK, I will give you that the label, the title, is important; it makes you look at the picture again — and more critically, but I think that without knowing they were looking at a homicide crime scene, the picture is still fabulous.

There are so many pictures of Weegee’s that I could go on and on about here.  Go search them out, or buy a book (you won’t be disappointed). The point I am making is that Weegee was the first photojournalist that struck me, and these were the first of his pictures I noticed.

This was “news”, but it was not snaps of of celebrities, politicians or sportsmen, just real people (warts and all). They are stark, and uncompromising, and at times describe how low life can get, and how ugly people can be, and what ugly things people do.  Weegee was the first to take this approach, he worked very hard, and while his pictures may be envied, no-one would envy Weegee’s working life on the cold, hard streets of the Naked City!

Note that Weegee’s book was called “Naked City” — and this inspired the TV show and so forth!

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WOODY ALLEN

21 January 2008

Woody Allen is a big hero of mine. Not because he was nerdy or geeky; I didn’t relate to that. Neither did I associate with nervousness, agitation, Jewishness or pretty much anything else.

The plain truth is that I love Woody Allen because he is so alien and so different from me. I laugh because he surprises me all the time.  Stories can go anywhere (and do).

He’s the nearest thing to a person worthy of envy.  It is impossible for me to think of him as a bad person or as having bad intentions. His single function seems to me to be to enrich our lives, to make things better for us, to entertain.

I think we all ought to live in a better world, the type of world Woody Allen seems to be in.  He proves that it is possible.  If only we could change the world to be more like that. That is something tangible to aim for.

It has to be the product of North America; that is where there is a culture of patronage, of philanthropy.

He is so versatile and creative and his work is so successful by most  metrics — but there are always detractors of his work and of his life.

I grew up with they guy. He’s always been there, ironically like Bogart was for his character in Play It Again Sam. I have his books, and I always went to his movies each year — and that brought about a new dimension.

“80 percent of success is showing up”

— That Woody Allen line has kept me going through surprisingly difficult times in my life.

But how marvellous to be given carte blanche — to make a movie every year for the rest of your life, starring whomsoever you want, about whatever you like!  A blank cheque.

I loved the fact that he kept his films 80 mins long, with the same crew and black-and-white credits and titles.

The thing is that you could see the legend emerging before your  very eyes — you knew as it was happening — that this man will be of legendary, Dickensian/ Shakespearian stature.

There has always been a strong sense of history being made with Mr Allen.

With is considerable output, he has been free to experiment — and not all things have been successful in terms of living up to the expectation or in terms of financial success at the box office.  But no matter.

Let Woody try it, make the mistakes and indulge himself on our behalf.

Ah the wonder!

Apart from that, I like the fact that he plays clarinet in a small Jazz club every Monday night.  He seems very centred in his life — in New York, in his work.  Much more sensible and grounded than his on-screen persona.

I reckon he’d be a good laugh on a day-to-day basis; that kind of quirky mind cannot be closed down.  I don’t think that his “serious” work shows that he’s grown up or become dry and sober and boring.  I just think he has to keep challenging himself — I mean to say come on; who could make a funny film every single year?

His early comedies are legendary, and his letters and articles brilliant. If you do not know him, do yourself a favour and check out this genius immediately!

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Sadly, a lot of people I know think of Woody only in terms of him being a paedophile — which is pretty shocking.  I don’t know what is more shocking — that people think that or that the media can get away with that sort of thing.

Here’re that facts as I remember them — Woody Allen was married twice.  His first marriage was to a 16 year old when he was just 19.  They were both classically “too young”. Allen married again for a few years — and that marriage was finally wound-up in 1969.

He didn’t marry again — until Christmas Eve in Italy in 1997 when he married in Soon Yi, and they have been married ever since — that’s over a decade, and by far the longest relationship, and longest marriage Woody Allen has enjoyed.

The problem is his wife.  Soon Yi was adopted by Mia Farrow and André Previn, and raised as their child.  When Farrow and Previn split, she started a relationship with Woody Allen — and although the two never married, they had a son called Satchel and adopted two others.

Woody and Soon Yi fell in love and Woody split from Farrow.

Farrow was furious; and fair enough — she was spurned and scorned, this was her adopted daughter, her ex-lover and ex-boss.  He was father to one of her kids. She went to the courts for custody and she went to the media for backup.

Farrow got custody, but even though the courts threw out all the accusations, as a result of this bitterness and fuss, Woody Allen is often somehow thought-of as a paedophile, with the suggestion that he’d molested his own children, that he had abused his position as a father! Some people even think he married his stepdaughter, and that is such a shame!

I remember being furious at the press back then; it was very poorly reported, extremely unfair and biased.  But then I could see that it was somewhat “unsavoury” for a chap to take up with his lover’s adopted kid (whatever age and whatever the age difference), it may not be “nice”, but it wasn’t evil or illegal or abuse or anything like that.

However, as time has gone by, I have to say that they are a true couple – married for longer than usual in Hollywood, and that speaks for itself.  I don’t think Woody Allen takes marriage lightly — marrying the girl was a massive risk when you consider that Mia Farrow had all but ruined his reputation; with a costly divorce and no reputation, could he have recovered?  The only conclusion one can come to is that they really did just fall in love, and that they are a suitable and compatible couple.

A love that is strong enough to survive all that media hype, but also on a personal level as he’s lost his kid and she’s lost her adopted father André and mother Mia, and adopted siblings.

I personally learned a LOT from this tale — that it doesn’t matter what people think, that once you know your mind, stick to your guns.  Woody, to my knowledge, conducted himself with dignity throughout this long and drawn out saga, and I do not recall him slinging any mud back at Mia Farrow.

I don’t get a lot of modern life — Woody Allen’s situation is surely far from unique in this day and age.  I know of other odd arrangements, for example, take a woman who split from her man and taken the children. She then embarks on a relationship with another man.  If she then dies, is the new man responsible for these children? or does he hand them back to their original father(s)?

Hey, looks like material for a Woody Allen film… LOL!

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