Three children eat while standing outside a Coney Island church with a cracked stained glass window depicting Jesus, New York, 1950. (Harold Feinstein)

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!”


A boy wearing round sunglasses looks down over the Coney Island boardwalk railing from among a row of seated adults, New York, 1950. (Harold Feinstein)

A group of boys flings another boy high in the air as part of a blanket toss game at a Coney Island beach, New York, 1955. (Harold Feinstein)

Two men stand on the beach talking while a boy walks by making a similar gesture, Coney Island, New York, 1950. (Harold Feinstein)

Several teenagers recline on a Coney Island beach, New York, 1949. (Harold Feinstein)

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.


Long shadows of cars and silhouetted passersby are seen from an elevated train platform, New York, 1950. (Harold Feinstein)

A man and woman share a public bench outside the New York Public Library, New York,1949. (Harold Feinstein)

A boy looks up from writing numbers in chalk on the street, New York, 1955. (Harold Feinstein)

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