Born in the front car of the Cyclone roller coaster, a photographer who truly adored Coney Island

Three children eat while standing outside a Coney Island church with a cracked stained glass window depicting Jesus, New York, 1950. (Harold Feinstein)
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Harold Feinstein, 15-year-old high school dropout and Coney Island native, was seen as a child prodigy in photography during his time. In 1950, at age 19, his work had already been purchased for the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Feinstein said of his home, “I was born in Coney Island hospital in 1931, and I used to say that I dropped from my mother’s womb straight into the front car of the Cyclone roller coaster!”

His photographs span six decades of Coney Island and the streets of New York, work that was praised by renowned photographer and close friend of Feinstein’s, W. Eugene Smith.

“Harold Feinstein is one of the very few photographers I have known or have been influenced by with the ability to reveal the familiar to me as beautifully new, in a strong and honest way,” Smith said of Feinstein.

A retrospective of Feinstein’s work, “The Early Years (1940’s-1950’s): Contagious Optimism” will be on display from Feb. 3 to April 30 at the Galerie Thierry Bigaignon in Paris.

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