INEXPENSIVE ASHER FELLIG’S CONTRIBUTION TO ART OF PHOTO, OR SCANDAL VIDGE
Asher Fellig was born at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries in the town of Zolochiv, which at that time belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After 11 years, the boy moved with his family to live in New York, where they changed his name to Arthur. The life of an emigrant made a teenager start working at the age of 14. He changes a few places before becoming an assistant photographer. This event, apparently, had a dramatic effect on his fate. Nowhere without being trained specifically, Arthur began working as a street portraitist with a pony, then became a laboratory assistant at a photo studio. Working during the day in the studio, at night he went to the “photohunting”. Now the life of the night in New York during the Great Depression is considered a kind of style and distinctive sign, created, among other things, by such a talent as Viji.
In 1935, Vigi (Weegee, Wee Gee – Arthur’s pseudonym, meaning the name of the game with predictions and consonant with the signal of a police siren) chooses the way of an independent photo reporter. In addition to the creative abilities of the photo, he also had a phenomenal flair and organization. Viji sold his staff to the best newspapers in New York, colleagues could not surpass him in efficiency. Fellig was a master. In the trunk of his Chevrolet, he organized a mobile photo lab. Thanks to this, the morning newspapers were full of pictures taken at night. He said: “For me, photos are like pancakes. I have to get them while they are hot.”
In 1938, Vigi was able to use the radio on the police frequency. This allowed him to be at the crime scene almost before law enforcement officers. His pictures of murders, accidents, fires fully met the needs of the “yellow” press.
In 1941, Arthur held the first professional photo exhibition, which was called “Viji: murder is my business.” Despite the cynicism of the title, which, of course, was present in the works of Fellig as well, one cannot deny the artistic value of his photographs. Over the years, they have become classics. Photos of the dead and accidents are made in compliance with all the rules of composition.
Fellig has collaborated with major publications such as New York Post, New York Journal American, Vogue, New York Herald Tribune and others. In 1945, Arthur’s first book, The Naked City, was published, and a year later another one, Viji People.
Photobooks were a huge commercial success. Their names perfectly reflect what Viji depicted in the photo. The night city saw everything: luxury and poverty, gangsters and prostitutes, dens and operas, murder and suicides. Arthur surprisingly felt aesthetics in every manifestation of New York life. The cabaret dancers, drunkards, street vendors fell under the sight of his camera.
Viji loved to shoot kissing couples. Young romantics in cinemas, ladies and gentlemen with gray hair, passionate lovers – all people came to life in Fellig’s photographs. Every little thing helped reveal an interesting story to the viewer. These were all “Viji people,” he loved, knew, felt them.
Arthur’s personal life was very riotous. He adored women as an artist and as a man. Many of his works are full of sexual desire – from erotic allusions to frank lust.