NEW YORK, NY.-
Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective (Nazraeli Press
) is the first career-spanning monograph showcasing the work of Harold Feinstein, a master of small-format black and white photography. Encompassing six-decades of his vibrant career, this book celebrates the rediscovery of one of the medium's great New York street photographers, particularly renowned for his love affair with Coney Island.
The book will publish internationally in December 2012, following a previously announced pre-publication release in Boston in October 2012, which coincides with an accompanying exhibition at Boston's Panopticon Gallery on view through December 31, 2012.
The centerpiece of the book is a selection of Feinstein's iconic photographs of Coney Island that remained his favorite location to shoot throughout his career. This six-decade love affair has resulted in a collection unsurpassed by any other photographer. In speaking about his affection for the famous boardwalk and diverse cross section of Americans that populate it, Feinstein once said, "I often feel like I fell out of my mother's womb onto the beach in Coney Island with a Nathan's hot dog in my hand with the sounds of kids screaming on the Cyclone."
From lovers on the boardwalk, to teenagers on the beach, to elderly bathers basking in the sun, to children diving into the surf, and whirling and tilting on amusement park rides, Feinstein's work reflects his love of ordinary people. As photo critic and historian A.D. Coleman said in response to Feinstein's 1990 show at the International Center of Photography (ICP) entitled "A Coney Island of the Heart" -- "Here is New York School small-camera photography at its best -- humanistic, intimate, engaged, almost intrusive. Feinstein is a true photographer's photographer."
While Feinstein's Coney Island work has been much celebrated, his breadth and exposure is far greater. Decades before photojournalists were embedded with soldiers in Afghanistan and other war zones, Feinstein was recording his experiences serving as a soldier in the Korean War. As an insider, he had an all access pass to photograph the daily life of his fellow draftees at his own pace. The result is a poignant and intimate body of work in which he documents American soldiers bidding farewell to their loved ones, undergoing basic training, boarding ship, arriving at port, on duty at the front lines, and at ease in the barracks. During a time of peace, one could envision these same young soldiers sunning themselves on a beach, or visiting a boardwalk sideshow. The work is bittersweet because of the looming conflict, but in the faces of these young men there is something of the spirit of Coney Island.
The book also gathers a marvelous selection of photographs culled from Feinstein's vast archive of classic street photography, along with some beautiful nudes and still life images.
Born in Coney Island in 1931, Harold Feinstein began photographing in 1946 at the age of 15, heading immediately to the Coney Island boardwalk with a Rollieflex camera he borrowed from a neighbor. Within four short years Edward Steichen, an early supporter, had purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) making him the youngest artist to be so honored. Feinstein, who was known as something of a child prodigy by the photo world, joined the Photo League at 17 and became a prominent figure in the vanguard of the early New York City street photography scene, exhibiting at Helen Gee's Limelight Gallery, teaching legendary workshops, and designing Blue Note Record covers while living in the now-famous "Jazz Loft," that he eventually turned over to his long-time collaborator and colleague W. Eugene Smith. Their association prompted this statement from Smith: "He is one of the very few photographers I have known, or have been influenced by, with the ability to reveal the familiar to me in a beautifully new, in a strong and honest way."
Feinstein scored great successes in his early career with his first exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1954, and his first exhibition at MoMA in 1957. That year, New York Times photo writer, Jacob Deschin, declared Feinstein's work "the new pictorialism," and a year later H. M. Kinzer of Photography Annual wrote that at the age of 26, Feinstein had already reached a point in his career where the word "master" was being applied to his prints.
Feinstein re-entered the spotlight in 2000 with his first book, One Hundred Flowers, published by Little Brown and now in its third printing. The book inspired UK newspaper, The Independent, to write: "In the realm of photography, Feinstein is what Beckham is to football or J.K. Rowling is to books." As one of the world's first artists to utilize a scanner as a camera, Feinstein's large format color imagery spawned seven books and some licensing contracts, earning him the Smithsonian Computerworld Award for Celebration of Life through Digital Imaging.
Asked to explain the seemingly vast differences between his color and black and white work, Feinstein simply says, "I just want to pay homage to the beauty of this life wherever I see it. I'm known for saying 'when your mouth drops open, click the shutter.' Truth is my mouth is constantly dropping open."
It is precisely Feinstein's love of what he sees in everyday life that has brought the most consistent praise from critics over the decades. In the book's Introduction,
Phillip Prodger, curator of photography at the Peabody Essex Museum writes: "For Feinstein, it does not matter what people do, where they come from, or what they look like. Their faces light up just the same, and their eyes sparkle with excitement. His subject is us--all of us--and our better nature."