The magazine of the photo-essay
Sept 2016 back issue
by Harvey Stein
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”
Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
For me, Coney Island has been there from the beginning. I discovered it
and photography at the same time, in 1970. My first photography teacher,
the wonderful and crazy Ben Fernandez instructed me to get a Leica, use
a 21 mm lens, and go to Coney Island. Being the dutiful student that I
was, I complied. And obviously I have kept doing so. The photographs in
this project were first taken in 1970 and I’m still photographing there, more
than 45 years later.
My first Coney Island book was published in 1998, the result of a 27-year
shooting adventure. But I continue to return; you would think 27 years is
enough. Yet Coney constantly beckons, and I am unable to purge myself
of it, it’s like a catchy tune that keeps playing and replaying in my mind.
Why do I keep returning to Coney Island? What constantly attracts me?
Why do I always think about it? Why this compulsion to photograph there,
even after I’ve done so more than 500 times in the last four decades?
Perhaps because Coney Island is in my mind, heart and soul. It’s haunting and beguiling, ever changing and yet at its
core - the same.
Being in Coney Island is like stepping into a culture, rather than just experiencing a day’s entertainment. There is a
sense of excitement, adventure, the thrill and escape from daily worries, and much pleasure, whether riding the jarring
Cyclone roller coaster, walking the boardwalk, appreciating the catch on the pier, viewing the mind bending Mermaid
Parade, or just sunbathing on the beach. Coney Island is an American icon celebrated worldwide, a fantasyland of the
past with a gentrifying present and an irrepressible optimism about its future. It is a democratic entertainment where
people of all walks of life and places are brought together in peace and harmony, despite the newly growing crowds.
There isn’t anywhere else like it and that is much of its attraction.
The paradox of photography is that while it is not very difficult to do (especially with digital point and shoot and cell
phone cameras), the more you do it, the harder it gets. As you progress, you want and expect more, you strive to
improve and make stronger and stronger images. You progress and begin to understand what makes a photograph
successful; the quest for the “magical” instant eternally frozen in time becomes an elusive and mostly unattainable goal.
Photography and Coney Island are never boring, always challenging and enduring in one way or another, both ever
engage me, keep me alert, alive, and sane, always looking, seeing, perceiving my surroundings and my fellow man.
Without them, I would be so much less. With them I am much richer, kinder, and knowledgeable about the world and
myself. What more can be asked?
Coney Island Sign and Shadows 2008.
Black Hooded Man, 2009.
Crowd up close, 2004.
Happy New Year Man, 2010.
Woman with Downcast Eyes, 2008.
Father and Mermaid Daughter, 1995.
The Happy Mermaid, 2010.
Mermaid Wearing Clamshells 2010.
The Jump, 2007.
The Dive, 2003.
The Hug-Closed Eyes and Smile, 1982.
Woman Standing in Ticket Booth, 1980.
Smiling Woman, 2009.
Head Stand and Walkers, 1977.
New Year's Day Run Into Ocean, 2009.