Acclaimed photographer and Coney Island native Harold Feinstein, who says he “dropped from my mother’s womb straight into the front car of the Cyclone roller coaster,” has put together a fantastic set of photos from the 1940s to the 1970s of Coney Island sportsmen in honor of the upcoming Olympics.
At Coney Island, watching was always the sport for me, which worked out really nicely since the place is and always was, teeming with show-offs and good natured competitors. A large crowd and lots of applause was the equivalent to a medal, and pretty much anybody could capture one. As a spectator, admission was free and you could count on a repeat performance next week-end — or a completely new and different one.
Coney Island is an event — a kind of Olympics of humanity. You can stand in one place and see it all, and you might be both audience and actor without even knowing it.
The photos span the years from 1949 to 1977 (with one sneaking in from 1997), showing regular men who took to the beach to flex their muscles, participate in a sandy boxing match. or horse around with pals.
Feinstein is one of the New York School photograhers who rose to prominence between the 1930s and 1960s, capturing street life scenes that shared the flavor and fight of New York City through drastic changes. His works hang permanently in the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Jewish Museum. His body lives in Massachusetts. His heart beats in Coney Island.
Correction (1:00 p.m.): Due to a significant lack of coffee, this very foolish editor kept writing “Harvey Feinstein” even though he knew better. The article has been corrected, and our sincere apologies to Harold Feinstein.