As the summer crowds flock to the beaches, Coney Island street photographer Harold Feinstein reminds us through his work that everyone enjoys fun in the sun. In a 1995 interview, Feinstein said, “Here Orthodox Jews, African Americans, Italians, Russians, Puerto Ricans, and folks from all over the world were drawn together by the lure of the surf, sand, boardwalks, side-shows, Nathan’s hot dogs, and the permission to leave go of all inhibitions.”
Feinstein said, “I dropped from my mother’s womb straight into the front car of the Cyclone roller coaster!” Born in Coney Island in 1931, Feinstein remembers spending his childhood on the boardwalk. He would draw portraits for change, which he would then spend on sweets, rides, and attractions. When he had spent every last penny, he would take the trolley home again.
Feinstein’s photographs, which span six decades, capture the magic of Coney Island. “It is America’s playground for the working class–classic Americana exuding the spirit of generosity and common humanity that is the best of the American spirit,” he said.
Although Feinstein is best known for his Coney Island photography, the subject of ICP’s 1990 exhibition A Coney Island of the Heart, his work covers a wide array of subjects, including flowers, portraits, and the urban landscape.