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Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous

Christopher Bonanos


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ISBN10: 1250229871
ISBN13: 9781250229878

Trade Paperback

400 Pages



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Winner of the National Book Critics' Circle Award in Biography

Arthur Fellig’s ability to arrive at a crime scene just as the cops did was so uncanny that he renamed himself “Weegee,” claiming that he functioned as a human Ouija board. Weegee documented better than any other photographer the crime, grit, and complex humanity of midcentury New York City. In Flash, we get a portrait not only of the man (both flawed and deeply talented, with generous appetites for publicity, women, and hot pastrami) but also of the fascinating time and place that he occupied.

From self-taught immigrant kid to newshound to art-world darling to latter-day caricature—moving from the dangerous streets of New York City to the celebrity culture of Los Angeles and then to Europe for a quixotic late phase of experimental photography and filmmaking—Weegee lived a life just as worthy of documentation as the scenes he captured. With Flash, we have an unprecedented and ultimately moving view of the man now regarded as an innovator and a pioneer, an artist as well as a newsman, whose photographs are among most powerful images of urban existence ever made.


Praise for Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous

“Christopher Bonanos has finally supplied us with the biography Weegee deserves: sympathetic and comprehensive, a scrupulous account with just the right touch of irreverence. Bonanos . . . takes the photographer seriously without letting him and his self-mythologizing off the hook.”—The New York Times

“Christopher Bonanos’ superb biography reveals how the man born as Usher Fellig in 1899 reinvented himself as a chronicler of the seedier sides of nocturnal Manhattan in the 1930s."The Seattle Times

“[An] impeccably researched biography . . . Bonanos offers a lively history of the early years of news photography, rich with anecdotes that create Weegee's persona."—

“Arthur ‘Weegee’ Fellig was perhaps the perfect vehicle for defining and delivering the fear and wonder of the modern city to our American spirit. Journalist, artist, and huckster, Weegee stole shards of a New York through a camera lens, then reassembled the great city in a mosaic that somehow—despite a fair degree of fraud—still defines urbanity itself for us. We know the photographs, and now, with this biography from Christopher Bonanos, we can finally know something of the legendary, improbable, and much-caricatured man."—David Simon, creator of HBO's The Wire and The Deuce

"Flash is a crackling portrait of a man and his eraas immediate and as alive as Weegee's pictures themselves. Chris Bonanos vivifies not only his subject, but the long lost New York that he lived in, and that made him."—Daniel Okrent, New York Times bestselling author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

“Weegee, in addition to being one of the greatest photographers ever, was a cartoon character and something of a living myth. This has confused perception for the better part of eighty years. Christopher Bonanos's nuanced and sympathetic account succeeds in merging those three aspects—not only was a lot of the bluster for real, but even the pure baloney was hard-won and contextually grounded. His is a sweet and melancholy book and a doorway into a mostly misremembered past.”—Luc Sante, author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York

"The cut and strut of Bonanos’ vivid prose captures the rough-and-tumble of mid-twentieth-century New York, while vital details gleaned from his extensive research enliven the portrait . . . he makes the man behind the camera fully human."—Booklist (Starred Review)

“[A] superb biography . . . Bonanos has meticulously researched every aspect of Weegee’s life, filling this fascinating and lively account with amusing and touching anecdotes.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)

Reviews from Goodreads


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