Back in 1970, artist David Young purchased a box of old news photos at a Philadelphia thrift store. After moving to Seattle, Young put the box in his kitchen cabinet and forgot about it for years. It turns out that box contains unseen 1930s crime photos by the famed New York City photographer Weegee.
Vulture reports that Young finally decided to take another look at the box of prints earlier this year. After uncurling the tight roll of photos, Young noticed a stamp on the back that read: “PHOTO BY A. FELLIG.” A Google search pointed Young to Arthur Fellig, the man who became a renowned photographer under the pseudonym Weegee.
Young then got in touch with city editor Christopher Bonanos of New York Magazine, Weegee’s biographer. Bonanos recognized the handwriting on the photos as Weegee’s.
“When [the discovered photos] hit my in-box, I about fell out of my chair,” Bonanos writes at Vulture. There are 73 prints, and 49 of them bear Weegee’s stamp; the unmarked ones too are surely his. Not one of these pictures is duplicated in the biggest collection of Weegee’s work, which is his own estate, held at the International Center of Photography.”
Most of the photos had never been seen before by Bonanos and curators at International Center of Photography, which holds the largest collection of Weegee’s work. And experts note that some of the photos may be among Weegee’s best photos.
Bonanos has been working to link the found photos to news stories from over 80 years ago, and he has successfully found dates, locations, and captions for about 80% of them.
“To my knowledge, not one of these pictures has been published for 82 years,” Bonanos writes.
While the photography world will benefit from a new trove of a famous photographer’s work, Young will likely benefit financially from his find: individual Weegee photos have sold at auction for well over $10,000.