Front / Recto

  • Title Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944
  • Negative Date November 10, 1944
  • Print Date 1944–55
  • Medium Gelatin silver print
  • Dimensions Image 9 3/8 x 7 9/16" (23.8 x 19.2 cm)
    Sheet 10 × 8 1/8" (25.4 × 20.7 cm)
  • Place Taken New York
  • Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Max Yavno and Nihon Keizai Shimbun, by exchange
  • MoMA Accession Number 1898.2001
  • Copyright © 2015 Weegee/ICP/Getty Images
  • Description

    Weegee established his career as a freelance tabloid photographer in New York City in the late 1930s and early 1940s. By his own count he shot more than five thousand murders between 1935 and 1945, glibly declaring, “Murder is my business” (a phrase that was the title of his 1941 exhibition at the Photo League, New York). He slept days and worked nights, living in a small, one-room apartment behind Manhattan Police Headquarters. Notorious for being first on the scene, Weegee was guided by an official fire bell, the licensed short-wave police radio he was uniquely granted permission to keep in his car, and what he referred to as his own psychic sense.

    Weegee came to press photography as the profession was undergoing significant transformation. The modern flashbulb, invented in 1931, replaced the burdensome and conspicuous magnesium powder flash with a discreetly contained disposable glass housing that looked just like a regular lightbulb. The photoflash bulb gave photographers a far less obtrusive, safer, and more controllable means of illuminating subjects. At crime and accident scenes Weegee used standard press equipment—a 4 by 5 inch (10.2 by 12.7 centimeter) Graflex Speed Graphic camera with a large flash attachment—to photograph bloody corpses, wrecked automobiles, car-crash victims, and murder sites surrounded by gawking onlookers. His flashbulb-lit photographs of New York’s nocturnal underbelly appeared in newspapers, tabloids, and even on the walls of The Museum of Modern Art.

    This iconic photograph captures Frank Pape—a teenager in police custody on charges of strangling his four-year-old neighbor to death—through the grilled gates of a paddy wagon. The original image is a 4 by 5 inch Kodak Super Pancro Press Type B 110 film negative. This photograph was published and printed in many states with variable cropping, in vertical and horizontal formats, and on photographic papers of varying surface sheens and sizes.[1] The progressive New York daily tabloid PM reproduced it, as did Weegee himself in his self-published book Naked City (1945). Fiber analysis suggests that the paper support for this particular print was made between 1932 and 1960. Single weight, Ferrotyping, and glossy, it is that of a typical press photograph.  

    —Hanako Murata, Audrey Sands

    [1] For more on the creation and dissemination of this print, see Jason E. Hill, “In the Police Wagon, in the Press, and in The Museum of Modern Art (A Note on Weegee’s Frank Pape, Arrested for Homicide, November 10, 1944),” on this website.

Back / Verso

  • Mount Type No mount - evidence previous mounting
  • Marks and Inscriptions Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, top: 17 year old Boy arrested/for strangling 6-year/old girl to death. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, bottom center: Police. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, bottom edge, center: 5520 [circled].
  • Provenance The artist, New York; by inheritance to the artist's estate (Wilma Wilcox), 1968 [1]; to Galerie Berinson, Berlin [2], late 1980s [3]; purchased by Thomas Walther; purchased by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
    [1] Hendrik Berinson, e-mail to Simon Bieling, October 22, 2005.
    [2] Thomas Walther, telephone conversation with Bieling, June 22, 2004.
    [3] Berinson, e-mail to Mitra Abbaspour, August 23, 2012.


  • Retouch Detail
    Detail showing aqueous retouching applied with a brush. The area of detail is 14 x 22 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Surface Sheen Glossy
  • Techniques Retouching (additive)
  • PTM
    View of the recto of the artwork made using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) software, which exaggerates subtle surface details and renders the features of the artwork plainly visible. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Micro-raking
    Raking-light close-up image, as shot. Area of detail is 6.7 x 6.7 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
    Raking-light close-up image, processed. Processing included removal of color, equalization of the histogram, and sharpening, all designed to enhance visual comparison. Department of Conservation, MoMA

Paper Material

  • Format Imperial
  • Weight Single weight
  • Thickness (mm) 0.18
  • UV Fluorescence Recto negative
    Verso negative
  • Fiber Analysis Softwood bleached sulfite 95%
    Hardwood bleached sulfite 4%
    Rag 1%
  • Material Techniques Developing-out paper
  • XRF

    This work was determined to be a gelatin silver print via X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry.

    The following elements have been positively identified in the work, through XRF readings taken from its recto and verso (or from the mount, where the verso was not accessible):

    • Recto: Al, P, S, Zn, Sr, Ag, Ba, Pb
    • Verso: Al, S, K, Ca, Zn, Sr, Ba, Pb

    The graphs below show XRF spectra for three areas on the print: two of the recto—from areas of maximum and minimum image density (Dmax and Dmin)—and one of the verso or mount. The background spectrum represents the contribution of the XRF instrument itself. The first graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the lower energy range (0 to 8 keV). The second graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the higher energy range (8 to 40 keV).

    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Al, P, S, K, Ag, Ba
    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Zn, Sr, Ag, Pb

In Context

Related Images

Spread from Weegee. Naked City. New York: Essential Books, 1945. Left: Seventeen-year-old boy… who strangled a four-year-old child to death. Right: He was booked for pouring kerosene on his wife… © 2014 Weegee/ICP/Getty Images
Neighbor Boy Admits Tying Bobby Drach.” PM. November 10, 1944. Courtesy New-York Historical Society. © 2014 Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

Historical Publications

  • “Neighbor Boy Admits Tying Bobby Drach.” PM 5, no. 126, morning edition (November 10, 1944): 15 (as untitled photograph).

    “Youth in Drach Case Is Placed in Bellevue.” PM 5, no. 126, complete edition (November 10, 1944): 15 (as untitled photograph).

    Weegee. Naked City, p. 166 (as Sixteen year-old boy . . . who strangled a four-year-old child to death). New York: Essential Books, 1945.

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