"In his latest book, Morris explores the works of 10 Jewish photographers and how their work relates to their Jewish heritage, as well as why and how Jewish photographers have distinguished themselves in their field. Morris begins with Weegee (Arthur Fellig), ‘a chronicler of death and heartbreak,’ and moves on to the photographs of Bruce Davidson, Jim Goldberg, Mel Rosenthal, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Allen Ginsberg, Annie Leibovitz, Tyagan Miller, and Marc Asnin. . . . Morris concludes that photography is one means of ‘witnessing as a form of social responsibility related to the biblical imperative, the injunction to Remember (Zakhor).’"—Publishers Weekly
"A compelling book and a welcome intervention into the history of American photography."—Joseph Entin, author of Sensational Modernism: Experimental Fiction and Photography in Thirties America
"Taking up the provocative issue of the relationship between Jews and photographic practice in the US, After Weegee ranges across an impressively varied group of photographers and contexts, exploring the ongoing effects of a foundational tradition of documentary engagement in the work of postwar Jewish-American photographers."—Sara Blair, author of Harlem Crossroads: Black Writers and the Photograph in the Twentieth Century
Examining a range of styles from the gritty vernacular sensibility of Weegee (Arthur Fellig) to the glitzy theatricality of Annie Leibovitz, Morris takes a thoughtful look at ten American photographers, exploring the artists’ often ambivalent relationships to their Jewish backgrounds. Going against the grain of most criticism on the subject, Morris argues that it is difficult to label Jewish American photographers as unequivocal “outsiders” or “insiders” with respect to mainstream American culture. He shows it is equally difficult to assign a characteristic style to such a varied group, who range from self-taught photographers to those trained in art school. In eclectic ways, however, the contemporary photographers highlighted in After Weegee carry on the social justice and documentary tradition associated with Sid Grossman, Aaron Siskind, and the primarily Jewish Photo League of the 1930s by chronicling the downside of the Reagan revolution of the 1980s.
Rather than record movements or trends in current Jewish American photography, Morris focuses in-depth on the work of Bruce Davidson, Jim Goldberg, Mel Rosenthal, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Allen Ginsberg, Annie Leibovitz, Tyagan Miller, and Marc Asnin. Like Weegee, these photographers share a tendency toward socially informed expression and an interest in self-expression via the operations of photography, inevitably shaped by histories of socially conscious or documentary imaging. Moving between photo history, cultural history, and close readings of the images, Morris traces a common thread among contemporary secular Jewish American photographers, artists who link the construction of personal identity to the representation of history. After Weegee broadens our understanding of the relationship between Jewishness and contemporary photography, challenging us to take a fresh look at much of what has come to be canonized as modern, postwar, and art photography.
Daniel Morris is professor of English at Purdue University. He is the author of critical studies on William Carlos Williams, Louise Glück, and the writings of contemporary American authors on modern art. He is the coeditor of the interdisciplinary Jewish studies journal Shofar.
6 x 9, 340 pages, 62 black and white illustrations