Berenice Abbott’s Naked City

The Hollywood cinematographer William H. Daniels shot the great noir film Naked City in 1948. It’s known as the first to be filmed on the actual streets of New York instead of in studio sets back in Hollywood.

He and the production team took their research seriously and it obviously included Berenice Abbot’s book Changing New York. This was her monumental project documenting the city as it was in the thirties.

The look of the film and the way it depicts New York is much closer to Abbott’s vision than Weegee’s, whose book of photographs gave the film its name. Most of the movies’ scenic shots are in long shots, like Abbott’s, whereas Weegee worked up close, going for the human interest, the tabloid headline.

On the left, William H Daniels New York, and on right New York by Berenice Abbott.

.Does Weegee’s style appear anywhere today? It does, on the leering scopophilia of TV shows like CSI.

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

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