Coney Island: Elevated Man Parallel to the Earth, 2021

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Coney Island People 50 Years

Harvey Stein | New York, United States

These images, found in my 10th and latest book, Coney Island People 50 Years, are from 1970-2021. They simultaneously look back in time while giving a current view to the people and activities of this “poor man’s Riviera”. Their close observations sweep the viewer into the feel of Coney  while providing insight and surprise. It is rare if ever that one individual has documented one place over fifty years. The photographs, mostly taken close to the subjects, employ wide angle views; are intimate, honest, direct, involving, often evocative and full of wonder.

Coney Island is like stepping into another society, rather than just a day’s entertainment. The photographs bring viewers a sense of excitement and the thrills of escape from daily worries, whether strolling the boardwalk or watching the mind-bending Mermaid Parade. Coney is an American icon celebrated worldwide, a fantasyland of the past with an evolving present and an irrepressible optimism about its future. It is a democratic “theater” where people from everywhere are brought together. There isn’t anywhere  like it; that is much of its appeal.


Photography is a personal odyssey, a way of discovering my rooms and putting them in order. It is a way of living; it encompasses and pervades my life. It continues my education and takes me to places I would never go to otherwise. I would not have ventured to Haiti, make fourteen trips to Mexico in eighteen years, travel to Italy for 12 consecutive years. Or stand next to Mayor Bloomberg or Presidents Carter, Clinton and Trump. Or meet thousands of wonderful students and global citizens.Or spend time with some of the best artists in America while working on my book Artists Observed.

For me, a photograph is a fragment of reality rescued from the anonymity and flow of life at a fraction of a second; it becomes a memory the instant it is made.

Photography takes me beyond myself yet paradoxically plunges me deeply into myself. It instructs me about the world and about who I am. It gives me direction and purpose. It is my shrink, my anti-depressant, and my salvation. It scratches my creative and expressive urges.I truly believe it has saved my life by giving me permission to be myself.

A wise commentator once said that there are two types of photographers—those who are collectors and those who are sculptors. Those that make photographs of their surroundings and those who create images of things not there. Obviously I am the former. I look at a place or a neighborhood or a person by taking photographs, it gives me a certain distance but paradoxically I get close and involved with my subjects, often talking to strangers and even directing them when on the street.

I make books (ten published to date) because I have stories to tell and want to share some of my visions; because I am passionate about a subject and want to explore it over a long time period with my camera. I do a book because I have to, because I wish to add my voice and viewpoint to the conversation. Might I say that I do a book to change people a little, and to think about and perhaps experience the world a little more fully.


phone; 212 316 9157


Instagram: @stein.harvey



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