a large collection of Weegee prints.
A lot of old photography is interesting just because it's old and it gets to you on a historical level rather than a wow, what a great artist this photographer is
level. To me, Weegee is firmly in that camp. It's newspaper photography.
What he did differently was go out and night and photograph things most other photographers of his day would have ignored or dismissed. That makes him an interesting photographer, and a pioneer of sorts, but not a great artist. The vast majority of his work is, in fact, utterly artless (see above: See fire. Aim camera. Press button. Go ape crazy.). Maybe artlessness his art. But really, anyone can photograph a burning building or a crime scene
. Try it yourself. You'll see.
Arbus and those who followed in her vein like Mary Ellen Mark and (early) Sally Mann did much more with "documentary" photography of people. They were artists. The best of their work goes straight for your gut. You feel it. That Weegee stuff has always been cold as ice.
Joel-Peter Witkin and all the oh-so-serious industrial goth mouth breathers he spawned (like Ellen Rogers) are junior high school shock jock turds on the face of art. "Look at how disaffected we are. Look at this naked girl with medical devices strapped to her face! It's a comment on something! Look at how I use a Photoshop filter to make it look like I scratched a film negative! Look!
" It's funny, but it's not cool or good.
Okay, that's not fair. Maybe 30 years ago when Witkin was the only one doing it, it had the ability to surprise you. You'd look at his pictures and say, what the hell?
But not now. It isn't enduring, his shtick, and his legacy is a blight on all of photography and much of 90s/00s graphic design.