About to Jump, 1974
Man Smoking in Diner, 1974
Sharing a Public Bench, 1949
Cruising on a Saturday Night, 1957
Coney Island Teenagers, 1949
Girl in Checkered Dress, 1957
Guitar and Cigarette, 1950
Young Girl in Fur Coat, New York, 1950
Puppy Love, 1988
Man and Wife Drinking Krueger Beer, Coney Island, 1952
Cramped Quarters, 1952
Couple in Subway Car Door, New York, 1977
Lady of the Lake, Vermont, 1974
Blanket Toss, Coney Island, 1955
Bad Luck Tattoo, Coney Island, 1957
125th Street from Elevated Train, New York, 1950
Black Hands and Back, Coney Island, 1974
Coke Sign on the Boardwalk, Coney Island, 1949
Times Square Lights Reflected on Car, New York, 1953
Woman Stepping out of Car, New York, 1947
Broken Christ with Children, Coney Island, 1950
Gypsy Girl and Carousel, Coney Island, 1946
Man Rummaging with Baby Buggy, New York, 1956
Ascending the Subway Stairs, New York, 1970
Boys Crossing in Front of Car, Brooklyn, 1955
Man with Hands Behind Head, Coney Island, 1952
Rain Splattered Window, New York, 1973
Boardwalk Sheet Music, 1950
Harold Feinstein – Boardwalks, Beaches and Boulevards (February 2020)
While influenced by the likes of W. Eugene Smith and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Feinstein was not a photographer who would stand back and observe, unnoticed by his subjects. In fact, in nearly every image, Feinstein’s proximity to his subject is clear. It is this physical closeness, an extension of Feinstein’s profound connection to his subjects, that sets his work apart from other street photographers from the same period. Whether standing over a group of teenagers lying on a Coney Island beach, photographing a couple on the boulevard, or capturing the immutable gaze of a young child, intimacy and compassion sit at the core of each image.
Where his contemporaries – photographers like Diane Arbus, Walker Evans and Garry Winogrand – documented the plight of the human condition without their subjects’ awareness, Feinstein celebrated humanity with his subjects. From the glittering lights of Times Square, to the streets of Harlem; from the smoke-filled coffee shops to subway cars; from city stoops to crowded beaches, Feinstein’s desire to connect with the world around him and share the experiences he saw is evident in every composition. A deep sense of empathetic humanity runs through these photographs. As Feinstein himself put it, 'Everywhere people live out their own personal story, yet are tied together through the universal emotions of love, loss, curiosity, humour and compassion... My street photography is a small sampling of my photographic journey bearing witness to the beauty and mystery of this human life.'
Born in Coney Island in 1931, Feinstein left school to begin photographing at the age of 15 and became one of the most prominent figures in the vanguard of the New York City street photography scene, joining the famed Photo League when he was 17. At the age of 19, Feinstein’s work was acquired by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). He was included in shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1954 and at the Museum of Modern Art in 1957. Feinstein also had a solo show at the legendary Helen Gee's Limelight Gallery in 1957. Despite this early success, Feinstein’s extensive collection of classic street photography, nudes, portraits and still life have seldom been exhibited. However, that is changing.
A renaissance of his remarkable work is currently underway as evidenced by the 2018 feature length documentary Last Stop Coney Island: The Life and Photography of Harold Feinstein, which had its world premier at DOCNYC to a sold-out crowd. Thanks to the continued success of the film, the acclaimed monograph, Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective (Nazraeli Press, 2012), and a growing number of solo exhibitions worldwide, including 180 The Strand, London in 2019, and David Hill Gallery in 2020.
In 2023, the Center de la Photographie de Mougins will stage a three-month retrospective of Harold Feinstein’s work as part of the Arles Photo Festival.
'We have ceased to see the life in which we live. It is my intent to cause the viewer to revisit the gifts we are surrounded by and see them as if for the first time.' Harold Feinstein
‘One of the most accomplished recorders of the American experience’ New York Times