"A Look at Harold Feinstein-New York City Street Photographer"
by Judith Thompson-NH
Monday, October 3, 7:30 PM
GLPA is very pleased to present a deep dive into Harold Feinstein’s life and photography with Judith Thompson, Director of the Harold Feinstein Photography Trust, who is also Feinstein’s widow, who will share a presentation of his life and work, a clip from a documentary and a few prints from the archive will also be on display.
Harold Feinstein was a renowned NYC Street Photographer in the 1950s and 60s who passed away in 2015. He has work in the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Hailed by The New York Times as ‘one of the most accomplished recorders of the American experience’, Harold Feinstein was a member of the legendary Photo League, a collaborator with long-time friend W. Eugene Smith, a designer of Blue Note Record covers, one of the original inhabitants of the now-famous Jazz Loft, a child prodigy whose work was purchased by Steichen when he was 19, and a legendary teachers for generations of aspiring photographers including Mary Ellen Mark, Lou Draper, Ken Heymann, Mariette Pathy Allan, Wendy Watriss and many others. He was an iconoclastic innovator, who left an indelible mark on the evolution of both mid-century street photography and contemporary photography as well. He was a highly respected master printer in the darkroom and at the cutting edge of digital technologies for which he received the Smithsonian Computerworld Award in 2000 for his remarkable development of scanography. In short, his life and career defy categorization, which is one reason why his name is not better known in the canon of American photo history. In recent years that’s been changing with multiple retrospective shows in Paris, London, Moscow, Beijing and the U.S., a feature length documentary film, Last Stop Coney Island: The Life and Photography of Harold Feinstein, that debuted at DOCNYC in 2018 to a sold out crowd, and the publication of his first black and white monograph by Nazraeli Press (2012, Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective, now out of print), which followed on seven color books (Little Brown).
Harold Feinstein was born in Coney Island in 1931. He began photographing in 1946 when he was 15. By the time he was 19, Edward Steichen had purchased his work for the Museum of Modern Art making him the youngest person to be so honored. Before the age of 30 he had become the youngest member of the Photo League, a designer for Blue Note jazz records, one of the original inhabitants of New York’s legendary ‘Jazz Loft’, a collaborator with W. Eugene Smith, a solo exhibitor at the historic Helen Gee’s Limelight Gallery, and a renowned teacher. When he died in June 2015 the New York Times declared him ‘one of the most accomplished recorders of the American experience.’
He is best known for his Coney Island work, which spans six decades and intimately portrays the iconic American playground as a place of on-going exuberance and vitality. Commenting on his one-man show, A Coney Island of the Heart, at the International Center for Photography in 1990, photo critic, A.D. Coleman, remarked-‘Here is New York small camera school at its best; humanistic, engaging, almost intrusive… This is the work of a man who loves people, takes unalloyed pleasure in seeing them enjoy themselves, likes to get close to them – and, by rendering their physicality in tactile, nuanced prints, enmeshes the viewer in the sensual, material world his ‘subjects’ occupy.’
While his Coney Island work has been much celebrated, Feinstein's breadth and exposure is far greater. His photographs from the Korean War, taken from the perspective of a draftee, offer an intimate look at the daily life of young conscripts from basic training to the front lines. His archive also includes a large collection of classic street photography, nudes, portraits and still life. The monograph, Harold Feinstein- A Retrospective (Nazraeli, 2012) received a PDN Annual Best Photography Book Award in 2013. In 2011 the Griffin Museum presented him with the Living Legend Award.
Feinstein also devoted over a decade to color photography, both digital and film. In 2000 he received the Smithsonian Computerworld Award for his breakthrough work in scanography, which resulted in seven books published by Little Brown. His book One Hundred Flowers has been reprinted three times.
Feinstein was legendary teacher who influenced several generations of photographers including Mary Ellen Mark, Lou Draper, Bob Shamis and Mariette Pathy Allen. He received his first teaching fellowship when he was 29 at the Annenberg School of Communications in Philadelphia and taught private workshops as well for over 50 years. A.D. Coleman called him ‘a true teaching artist…whose legendary private workshops and art institute classes proved instrumental in shaping the vision of hundreds of aspiring photographers’
Shortly before he died, a remarkable renaissance of his early work was underway, including exhibitions and career retrospectives in Moscow, Paris, London, Istanbul, Atlanta, Los Angeles and the historic Blue Sky Gallery. A documentary about his life Last Stop Coney Island: The Life and Photography of Harold Feinstein, premiered at the DOC NYC film festival in November 2018 to a sold-out crowd and is now streaming on the Sundance Channel, BBC Select and SkyArts. A recent Kodakery podcast, The Life and Work of Harold Feinstein with Andy Dunn and Carrie Scott became Kodak's NO.1 hit on iTunes in early 2020.
For more information please visit-www.haroldfeinstein.com, YouTubeChannel, Facebook.