Weegee - Photographs London Friday, May 19, 2023 | Phillips
  • “I am a perfectionist. When I take a picture. . . it's gotta be good.” 

    According to Weegee’s (1899-1968) biographer Miles Barth, ‘When it came to warm weather, Weegee was the last person you could imagine in shorts and sneakers and a T-shirt’. Yet, under the baking summer sun, in 89-degree heat, the very same photographer captured this iconic image at 4pm on the 22nd July 1940, a day which was said to have attracted 1 million visitors to the beaches of Coney Island. Hoping to snapshot a crowd of ordinary people enjoying a typical day at the beach for the periodical pages of PM, Weegee was seen shouting and dancing to catch the attention of his innumerable subjects. And thus, this image was created. On those subjects, the American writer Joseph Mitchell outlines: ‘They came for the salt water. Many of them spend the day and night and spend no more than 25 cents. They came with their bathing suits under their clothes, or they negotiated a furtive quick change under the boardwalk. Perhaps they brought a few sandwiches. Or maybe they will buy a few frankfurters . . . The beach policemen testify that there are youths who spend the whole summer on the beach and never pay a nickel’s rent.’ Other prints of this image are held at New York’s MoMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  



    ‘Coney Island’ from Weegee’s New York, 1948.



    PM, 22 July 1940, pp. 16-17.
    • Provenance

      Witkin Gallery, New York, 1984
      Christie's, New York, Crossing America: Photographs from the Consolidated Freightways Collection, Part I, 7 April 2011, lot 262

    • Literature

      ‘Yesterday at Coney Island…Temperature 89…They Came Early, Stayed Late,’ PM, July 1940, pp. 16-17 (variant crop)
      L. Stettner, Weegee, New York: Knopf, 1977, p. 52-53, there dated '1938-1939'
      J. Coplans, Weegee: Naked, New York, New York: teNeues, 1997, cover, n.p., there captioned 'Coney Island, 28th of July 1940, 4 o'clock in the afternoon'
      Weegee's Story: From the Berinson Collection, Salzburg: Rupertinum Salzburg, 1999, pp. 114-115
      M. Barth, Weegee's World, New York: Bulfinch, 2000, p. 140, there captioned 'Crowd at Coney Island, Temperature 89 degrees…They came early, and stayed late'



Coney Island

Gelatin silver print, printed 1950s.
Image: 27 x 34 cm (10 5/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
Sheet: 28.2 x 35.3 cm (11 1/8 x 13 7/8 in.)

‘Credit Photo by WEEGEE, The Famous’ stamp on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

£18,000 - 22,000 

Sold for £24,130

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Head of Department, London

Yuka Yamaji
Head of Photographs, Europe

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London Auction 19 May 2023