warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

"Naked Hollywood" Exhibit Reveals Artist Weegee's Perspective On Iconic Stars

Sarah Khasrovi |
February 6, 2012 | 6:13 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Prestige, fame, wealth, and a flawless appearance are typically the characteristics we've been accustomed to associate with Hollywood.

MOCA'S "Naked Hollywood" exhibit attracts art aficionados. (Sarah Khasrovi/Neon Tommy)
MOCA'S "Naked Hollywood" exhibit attracts art aficionados. (Sarah Khasrovi/Neon Tommy)

The entertainment industry has captivated its fans for years with the bait that hangs from its figurative fishing rod: celebrities. Iconic figures that we not only admire, but often idolize, have forever become immortalized through television, film, music, and of course, the expansive posters that are plastered on the walls of our homes. Yet, there was a man who sought to show the world that the life of a star is not always as glamorous as we believe it to be. His is known as Weegee. And his work is currently on exhibit in Los Angeles' very own Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

Weegee, a pseudonym for Arthur Fellig, was originally a New York tabloid photographer who branded a unique style of photography, often creating distorted or caricatured images. While the themes of his photos were broad-ranging across a field of various attractions, he spent a portion of his life photographing LA's entertainment life upon his move to the city in 1947. The "Naked Hollywood" exhibit at the MOCA is a must-see, showcasing all of Weegee's unexposed photographs from past decades. It's namesake is representative of a conspicuous perspective of Hollywood that is rarely unearthed--what truly lies behind all of the makeup?

Weegee shows us that his camera is his most powerful weapon, "I had to have a lens out of this world to do full justice to the strange sights and people which are Hollywood".

His work contains a vivid, and highly comical, exposé of doubled or deformed famous faces of illustrious stars. He deemed this photographic technique his "elastic lens" and used it to create distortion effects, such as Clark Gable's iconic mustache morphing with his cigarette, or Marilyn Monroe's nose stretching to take on the shape of a pig's.

While his satirical approach to the materialism of Hollywood can be seen in his array of comical pictures, Weegee also has a deeper point to make. One of the most telling photographs of his collection reveals a warehouse containing numerous distorted mannequins hanging from hooks throughout the crowded space. Next to the photo Weegee writes, "These gals remind me of the Hollywood extras, speechless, nameless, and always getting nothing for all their work and effort".

His bitter words shed light on the brutality that he believed enveloped the Hollywood scene, with legendary stars being highly sensationalized, while all other players in the background were overlooked. Weegee truly had no sympathy for the stars, and rather, sought to expose a side of them that the rest of the world refused to acknowledge. The notion that these figures could have flaws seemed foreign to the public, yet commonplace to Weegee. He photographs them eating, leaning over, and in plenty of awkward positions to last a lifetime. He purposefully cuts out and emphasizes their few moments of candidness. He crudely pieces together his view of celebrities to become the new found focal point of society's entertainment.  

After all, upon leaving "Naked Hollywood", Weegee's words hang barefacedly to remind us that "A star's private life is a matter of public concern."

This exhibit runs until February 27.

Reach Reporter Sarah here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.