William H. Daniel’s Naked City

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Click on these images to see New York in 1948.

They show the city just after World War II, but just before the prosperity boom of the 1950s; it’s a hardworking city, energetic and unpretentious. The images are by William H. Daniels, whose work, you might agree, resembles that of Weegee and Berenice Abbott, both photographers of Gotham City at that time.

But Daniels was not a still photographer like Weegee and Abbott, he was a Hollywood cinematographer who received an Oscar for this work. These are stills from the 1948 movie The Naked City which was shot on location in New York.

In 1945 Weegee had published a book of his press photos of murderers, drunks and corpses and called it The Naked City. Hollywood producer Mark Hellinger, who had been a columnist in New York, bought the title from Weegee intending to make the movie with a similar degree of grittiness. He determined to shoot it on location in the city which was almost unknown at that time when most movies where made on the studio backlot in Hollywood. It gave the film a surprising sense of reality, like a documentary. The movie was a hit.

Compare William H. Daniels’ images with Weegee photographs here, and Berenice Abbott photographs here.

See my other posts on this subject, Berenice Abbot’s Changing City , Berenice Abbott’s Naked City and Those faces, those suits.

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