Harold Feinstein's Coney Island State of Mind

Photographer Captures Brooklyn Lives in Black and White

By James Sullivan

Published December 14, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

At age 81, the photographer Harold Feinstein is developing cataracts. But he’s been wearing glasses since he was a boy, and he scoffs at the idea of surgery.

“Imagine someone telling me I’ll see better,” he said with an impish grin beneath his flowing white beard. Feinstein is not one for false modesty. Early in his career, he may have suggested that his favorite photographer was Henri Cartier-Bresson, or the British master Bill Brandt. Yet for most of his life, he says, his favorite photographer has been Harold Feinstein.

And with good reason. Feinstein’s decades-long obsession with Brooklyn’s Coney Island, where he began taking pictures as a teen novice in the late 1940s, produced several images coveted by the museum curator Edward Steichen for his landmark exhibition “The Family of Man.” (Feinstein declined.) Feinstein went on to a long career as a beloved teacher, and in the past decade he has published several monographs featuring dazzling color studies of tulips, seashells, butterflies and other natural wonders.

Now the photographer’s work has been collected in “Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective” (Nazraeli Press), a long-overdue collection of 80 of his finest black-and-white photos, ranging from the rich pageantry of Coney Island at midcentury to Feinstein’s candid shots while serving in Korea for the U.S. Army and to his later nudes and landscapes.

Feinstein’s uncanny ability to capture a wide range of human emotions — bliss, defiance, melancholia — in the fleeting facial expressions of strangers on the subway or on the boardwalk marked him from a young age as a gifted shutterbug. Later in life, when he began to explore the female form, as so many of his predecessors had done, his gaze was unfailing.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.