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    Description

    Weegee (American, 1899-1968)
    Poker-Faced Schoolgirl Kills Mother and Blames Boyfriend (2 works), August 4, 1936
    Gelatin silver
    9-5/8 x 7-5/8 inches (24.4 x 19.4 cm) and slightly smaller

    From their appearances 17 year-old Gladys MacKnight and her boyfriend, 18 year-old Donald Wightman did not look like killers. Gladys' mother Helen disapproved of their relationship but knew that she was powerless to stop her headstrong daughter. On the night of July 31, 1936, the three were together in the MacKnight home in Bayonne, New Jersey when Gladys and Helen started arguing over something petty: Gladys wanted to play tennis with Donald before it got dark but wanted dinner first. Her mother told her to maker her own dinner. When Edgar MacKnight came home around 6:00 p.m. that night he found his wife hacked to death. The couple returned home around 10:00 p.m. to turn themselves in.

    In August 1936 Arthur Fellig was a struggling freelance photographer nearly broke and thinking about selling his camera. Fellig arrived at the Bayonne police department at 5:00 a.m. the day after the murder knowing that the morning newspapers had no photographs of the killer couple. A reporter Fellig was with persuaded the warden to bring them out to be photographed. Fellig scooped the other photographs and ended up with $75 from various newspapers and was back on his feet and on his way to becoming "Weegee the Famous". Fellig is quoted as saying about Donald's collegiate good looks "he could have made the all-American axe team."

    LITERATURE:
    New York Post, August 1, 1936, p. 3 one photograph reproduced.
    The Photograph That Gave Weegee His First Big Break, Christopher Bonanos, July 18, 2018, Forward.com

    Group of Weegee Photographs Unseen for 83 Years

    In 1970, David Young walked into a secondhand shop in Philadelphia. "It was this really funky store, with nooks and crannies, and I saw this box," Young said. Through time the photographs had become curled tightly around each other. "I peeled one off and there's police officers hovering over a dead body. I said, 'God, that's weird.' So, I peeled off another and it was a car wreck. I said, 'These are cool. I think I'll buy these for $2.'"

    As he moved from place to place over the years the largely unexamined box of photographs followed him. He finally moved to the Seattle area in 1987, put them away for safekeeping, and forgot about them.

    A random inspection of his rental apartment a little over a year ago got him to do some organizing. He found a few of the photos in a box in the garage and it reminded him that the rest might be in the kitchen. He reached to the back of a cabinet next to the kitchen sink and there was a box with 52 photographs. A couple of weeks later he found a few more in another box.

    He now noticed that many had a stamp that read "Credit Photo to A. Fellig" on the backs. He Googled the name, something that was impossible back in 1970, and immediately saw that Arthur Fellig was the name of the photographer who was later known as Weegee and died in 1968. It is said that Weegee got that nickname because police and fellow photographers thought that the only explanation why the freelancer was often on the scene of the crime first was that he used a Ouija board.

    As a newspaper photographer he was only interested in taking a photo of a crime scene, making a print, and selling it to a newspaper for publication the next morning. The prints themselves were almost disposable. He joked he didn't have a filing system. He kept his photographs under the bed or in the trunk of his car. It is very rare for these prints to have survived. Most of the newspapers discarded their prints over the years. How a box Weegee's photographs, almost all from a few months in early 1937, ended up in a junk shop in Philadelphia is a real mystery. These photographs appear to be the only surviving prints of these images.

    Many of Weegee's photographs of murders, fires, car crashes and street life of New York are among the most famous in 20th century journalism. After he became famous in later life he printed photographs that ended up in museums and collections around the world. Weegee became the archetype for the cigar-chomping, hard-boiled news photographer portrayed in films like Joe Pesci's "The Public Eye" and Jake Gyllenhaal's "Nightcrawler."

    We would like to thank Christopher Bonanos, author of "Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous," for his extensive research on these photographs.


    Condition Report*: In overall very good condition with scattered small creases and bumped corners.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2020
    4th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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