WEEGEE, edited and with an introduction by Louis Stettner (Knopf, $15). Born Arthur Fellig, Weegee took his professional name from the Ouija board - a reference to his uncanny ability to divine the scene of a crime and to be there, with camera ready, even before the event happened. In the late 1930s and early '40s, Weegee prowled New York in the hours between dusk and dawn taking the pictures he knew the newspapers would buy. What sold then is still compelling today - murders, fires, arrests, the mob at Coney Island, the gentry at the opening of the opera, the high-pitched happenings and strange encounters that are the genre scenes of metropolittan life. A true urban primitive, Weegee's artlessly composed, brutally direct images exist on the boundary between reportage and fine art. Unfortunately, his work underwent a change when he moved to Hollywood in the late '40s. Though the trick-shot celebrity caricatures he created after going west are represented here, the author has wisely focused on Weegee's great, early work. Raised in the streets of New York, this photographer never felt quite at home anywhere else.
LIFE GOES TO WAR: A PICTURE HISTORY OF WORLD WAR II, edited by a special Time-Life staff (Time-Life, $19.95). Anyone who wonders what was lost when we lost LIFE need only study this volume. No written account could capture World War II and the full range of human experience it engendered as directly and as vividly as the pictures that this book contains. Above all, LIFE was a vehicle for photographers and here we have the best of the photojournalists - Robert Capa, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith - working on some of the most memorable assignments of this century. What their pictures do that history books cannot is to make the war personal. The Spanish Republican at the moment of his death, Goebbels the family man reading to his two small daughters, the poignant farewells at Penn Station, the survivors of Buchenwald, the exultant sailor embracing an Army nurse on V-J Day - the war as individuals lived and remember it was the war that LIFE recorded.
AMERICAN SNAPSHOTS, selected by Ken Graves and Mitchell Payne (Scrimshaw Press, 6040 Claremont Avenue, Oakland, California 94618, $13.50). The Scrimshaw Press produces beautiful books, and their latest, American Snapshots , is no exception. Just as the title indicates, this is a collection of photographs by Americans whose interest in photography often went no further than snapping pictures of relatives in the backyard. As Jean Sheperd says in his humorous but insightful introudction: "It would be almost impossible today to locate a human being in America who has not been photographed. We belong to a generation of humanity that has the power to freeze its image for all time." What Graves and Payne have done (with the help of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a lot of door-to-door solicitation throughout the United States) is gather and organize a selection of premiere examples of the art of the amateur photo, from "gag" shots to movingly artless portraits. The result is a fitting tribute to all our family albums and their attempts to chronicle our personal histories. It is an entertaining and enlightening documentation of some of our most common and candid experiences before and behind the camera.