Born and raised in Coney Island, there was never a photographer better primed to capture the neighborhood’s vibrancy than Harold Feinstein. “I like to think I fell out of the womb on to the fun park’s giant Parachute Jump while eating a Nathan’s hot dog,” he told The Guardian in 2014, just before his passing in 2015. Indeed, Feinstein would take his first photo (using a Rolleiflex borrowed from a neighbor) at age 15 in 1946, beginning what would become an unwavering love affair with documenting the whizz, whirl and insatiable life that permeated his beachside locale. Although Feinstein would eventually move on to other subjects in various parts of New York City and the globe, over his nearly 70-year career he would always return to Coney Island for inspiration. “Coney Island was my Treasure Island,” he said.
Feinstein’s Coney Island photos cover more than five decades, but ultimately his 1940s and 1950s snapshots–those taken when he was just a teenager–would cement his status as one of the most important photographers recording life in post-war America. Ahead, the Harold Feinstein Photography Trust shares highlights from this collection.