Feinstein's Coney Island of the Heart

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday December 13, 2012

Called by historian and photo critic A.D. Coleman, "a true photographer's photographer, and one of the most seriously under-recognized senior figures in U.S. photography," the 82 year old master photographer and legendary teacher of photography, Harold Feinstein, is finally celebrating the publication of his first black and white monograph, Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective (Nazraeli 2012).

To mark the occasion, Feinstein will share memories of a lifetime of photography in conversation with A.D. Coleman, along with colleagues and former students, at Aperture Gallery and Bookstore on Monday, December 17, from 6 to 9 pm. The discussion will be moderated by Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and photographs, Museum of the City of New York.

Following the conversation there will be a party during which Feinstein will sign copies of his beautiful new book. During the event, signed limited edition posters of Feinstein's iconic images of Coney Island will be on display and for sale at a special one night only price, with all proceeds going towards the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts of North Star Fund and #ConeyRecovers.

CI023-ConeyIslandTeens4-hp.jpgHarold Feinstein, Coney Island Teens, 1949.

Mr. Feinstein recently recalled his life-long attachment to Coney Island:
I was born in Coney Island – literally and figuratively. On April 17, 1931 my mother lay in Coney Island Hospital exhausted from my arrival not far from our family’s home on Coney Island. I can’t remember the exact location of our early home, since we moved up to Bensonhurst when I was about six or seven where we lived at 18th Ave. and 78th Street for much of my boyhood. But it was just a short trolley from Coney Island. With 25 cents in my pocket in the morning I would head to Coney. Having spent all my money on hot dogs, candy and rides, I would draw pictures on the boardwalk for the fare home, but generally just hitched a ride on the back bumper of the trolley since whatever I earned generally went toward one more ride.

I took my very first photographs at Coney Island. It was 1946 and I was 15. I borrowed my upstairs neighbor's Rollieflex and headed straight for the Cyclone. After too many days of borrowing, my neighbor billed me $5 a day for the rental of his camera!

When I say I was also born on Coney Island figuratively, it’s because my birth as an artist and photographer was nurtured within its womb. My outlook on life, which most would say is optimistic and appreciative, was forged in the crucible of Coney Island, which is why I have always called my six decades of Coney photographs A Coney Island of the Heart.

It’s not only a place; it’s a state of mind — a crucial piece of New York City’s psyche — and the nation’s. It’s about equality and the common pursuit of pleasure no matter what class or culture you’re from. It’s about the embrace of the bizarre and the ordinary and the freedom to have uninhibited fun with throngs of others who are all there for the same reason. There is simply no other place like it in the world and it needs to be preserved and restored for future generations. Come what may, Coney Island has and always will rise from the ashes….


Harold Feinstein, Boys Running Into Surf, 1954.

Reflections on a Lifetime of Photography | A Conversation with Harold Feinstein and Friends, followed by a book launch party and signing. Monday, December 17, 6-9 pm. Aperture Gallery and Bookstore, 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor, NY, NY. Information.

The exhibition, Harold Feinstein | A Retrospective continues at Boston’s Panopticon Gallery through January 8, 2013. 502c Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass. Information. About Harold Feinstein.


CORRECTION: The listing for Clic Gallery and Bookstore in yesterday's Indie Booksellers feature was flawed. The correct info:
Clic Gallery & Bookstore, 255 Centre Street, NY, NY. Photography, art, fashion, and celebrities; author events.