Annika von Hausswolff, Jane & Louise Wilson, Weegee
Prologue by David Neuman, Director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall, and Richard Julin, Curator Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
The Scene of the Crime: Annika von Hausswolff, Jane & Louise Wilson and Weegee, essay by Sara Arrhenius, Curator, Author and Critic
Exhibition catalogue no 22
No of pages: 52, color, illustrated
Binding: soft cover
Graphic design: Mattias Givell
Language: Swedish and English
Publisher: Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
Available for purchase in our museum entrance for 300 SEK (approx. 30 EUR)
The Scene of the Crime: Annika von Hausswolff, Jane & Louise Wilson and Weegee by Sara Arrhenius
Weege’s photographs almost always show violence, evil, and human misery. Brutal and dramatic, they open the door onto catastrophes that we know happen and fear will happen again. The prints he made are – at least in retrospect – extremely beautiful, given their graphic clarity, the traces of wear and tear visible on the darker parts, and their nearly unimaginable flash that gives the pictures the character of a revelation, an omen of what should not happen.
But the suffering of the people he portrays – nearly always the poor, the marginalized, or the criminal – is neither heroic nor tragic. It is only part of life’s unpredictable, chaotic flood of small and large miseries and mistakes. In this way, Weegee’s photographs do not have any clear sociopolitical agenda. They do not preach about crime or designate anyone as guilty, but nor do they urge us to seek change or ask for explanations or gather in opposition. Weegee photographs the world; he does not try to change it. In this way, his photographs follow the logic of sensationalist journalism. Black-and-white and strikingly present, they follow life close on its heels: excited, laconic, sometimes sentimental, always captivating. Among all these photographs there is one that I sit in front of for a long time. Not because it is somehow more brutal than his other photographs of the dark side of the big city. On the contrary, it is quite an everyday catastrophe caused more by human inability than by evil. The photograph shows an apparently futile attempt to resuscitate a drowned man. What attracts my attention is not what is shown but how it does it: the fact that it so palpably follows the rules that have governed and shaped press photography and by doing so also exposes them mercilessly.
These visual codes not only characterize the innumerable photographs printed in magazines and shown on TV but have also become so deeply integrated into our way of looking and our visual culture that we hardly see them any longer and we take them for granted. The beach is full of curious people greedy for something sensational. Exactly like the photographer – and myself – they are stealing glances at the accident. This voyeurism in itself functions as a guarantee that we are not involved, that we have made it through safely this time also and have not been struck down by something awful. But voyeurism is also the perversion that feeds the fundamental lie of the news and of photography: that looking and recording are themselves a form of moral duty, an imperative we must follow. So far, Weegee’s photograph is really just a normal news photograph of one accident among many. But sitting behind the man on the ground is a young woman, and here the photograph begins to become unsettling. She is probably one of the people who found him, perhaps even a relative. She is looking straight at the camera and smiling. Her smile interrupts the entire logic of the photograph, which dictates that an accident has happened here and that those who are affected should be self-absorbed. By smiling at the camera, another mode of photography is triggered instead: the one in which a woman exists because a camera sees her and desires her youth and beauty. (…)