Harold Feinstein. Playground of America

12.09 - 26.10. 2014

A retrospective exhibition of a celebrated figure of the New York street photography scene Harold Feinstein features his famous photographs of Coney Island and street photography as well as documentary series from the Korean War, nude studies and still-life.

Harold Feinstein: Coney Island Teenagers, 1949

Harold Feinstein was born in Coney Island in 1931. He began his career in photography in 1946 at the age of 15 and within four short years, Edward Steichen, an early supporter, purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. He joined the Photo League at 17, and became a prominent figure in the vanguard of the early New York City street photography scene. During the early 1950s, he worked closely with pioneer of humanistic photography W. Eugene Smith helping him organize, edit, and layout photographs from the Pittsburgh Project photo essay. Feinstein learned from him the value of photography in reorienting one’s thinking.

Feinstein is best known for his six-decade engagement with Coney Island. “I was born in Coney Island and used to say that I dropped from my mother’s womb straight into the front car of the Cyclone roller coaster! A nickel would get me a ride on the trolley to Coney Island and for the rest of the day I’d use up my quarter on rides, attractions, and plenty of sweet treats. I’d earn a little more to spend by drawing portraits on the boardwalk and having spent every last nickel, hitch a ride on the back of the trolley home again. But watching was always my favorite pastime. Over the years, the face of Coney Island has reflected waves of immigration and shifting neighborhoods. 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 had his first exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1954 and his first exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. At the age of 26, Harold Feinstein reached the recognition as a master photographer and began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Museum School, the School of Visual Arts in New York, the University of Massachusetts, and many others. Feinstein’s photographs have been exhibited in and are represented in the permanent collections of major museums around the globe including the Museum of Modern Art, International Center of Photography, George Eastman House, Museum of Photographic Arts, Center for Creative Photography, Musée d’Art Moderne, the Jewish Museum, and the Museum of the City of New York. His portfolios, photo essays, and articles have been published in major periodicals including, LIFE, Aperture, Black and White, Camera Arts, The New York Times Magazine, American Photo, Oprah Magazine, Evergreen Review, Photography Annual, Modern Photography and Popular Photography. His first black and white monograph was published in 2012 and won a Photo District News 2013 award in the Best Photo Books category. In 2011 at the age of 80, he was given The Living Legend Award by the Griffin Museum of Photography.