Weegee, the great tabloid photographer of the 1940’s and 50’s, took a remarkable picture of Veronica Lake. The legendary movie star and pinup model is shot from behind, so only her fur-coat-covered back and neatly coiffed hair can be seen. The picture’s real focus is a group of fans staring at her, their faces unsmiling, and more than a little menacing.
The image is part of ”Unknown Weegee,” a gripping exhibition at the International Center of Photography. Weegee’s classic film-noir style is represented in black-and-white pictures of blanket-draped corpses on sidewalks, and more elegantly chilling fare, like the picture of a fashionable young woman covering her face with black-gloved hands, entitled ”Irma Twiss Epstein, Nurse Accused of Killing Baby.”
The most intriguing photos, though, are the crowd shots, like ”Veronica Lake,” that capture people on the street gazing too intently at celebrities, accidents and crime scenes.
Weegee’s photography is credited with helping create American tabloid journalism, paving the way for The National Enquirer and TV shows like ”America’s Most Wanted.” But the crowd shots are a reminder that in the process, Weegee also helped turn America into a nation of gawkers.