Hello Photoion students and photography fans. Today we’ve got another Masters of Photography article for you.
This time we’re looking at the American photographer, Harold Feinstein.
Born in Coney Island in 1931, Feinstein took to the art of photography from an early age. He began in photography at the tender age of 15 years old, and within 4 years his work was purchased by Edward Steichen for the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. This is an incredible achievement for any photographer, but for someone so young it is especially impressive.
Feinstein joined the Photo League at just 17 years old, and he went on to become one of the leading figures in the early Street Photography scene in New York City. Feinstein is responsible for some of the best street photography from the period. His early work on Coney island is an iconic look at joyful life of the island.
Once the majority of his work moved to New York itself, his pieces began to mature. They still focused on everyday life, and his subjects were often the typical Street Photography subjects; ordinary people going about their day, but his pieces began to develop a new sense of atmosphere.
Through his use of light, shadow, and contrast, Feinstein was able to create viscerally atmospheric images out of the most ordinary of subjects. A brilliant example of this is his piece, 12th Street From Elevated Train. It’s a perfectly normal scene of a New York street, but through his use of contrast, Feinstein is able to really accentuate the shadows of the people on the street which gives them an almost sinister quality.
But it wasn’t just the ordinary that Feinstein captured with his camera. In the early fifties he was drafted to serve in the war in Korea, and through his camera, he captured the lives of the average infantryman in the conflict. He had originally hoped to be drafted as a dedicated photographer, but went on to say “ it was a blessing that I wasn’t. Had I been official, I would have been commanded to photograph medal presentations and officer’s ceremonies. Instead, I carried my camera around with me all the time – during basic training, on the troop ship, and in Korean villages. My attempt in this series was to capture the humanity of all involved and find beauty and comraderies in the midst of tragedy”.
As time went on, Feinstein turned his lens onto new subjects. In the seventies and eighties he did a lot of work on Nude Photography and portraiture. Though these pieces were ore staged than his earlier street work, they still retained the rawness that he is known for.
During the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, Feinstein did a lot of work on nature and the Metropolis. His Metropolis series is especially interesting because he used a modified lens to turn the cityscape of New York into works of abstract art.
Feinstein passed away in 2015, but he will long be remembered as a talented and versatile photographer who captured the heart of New York life through the later part of the 20th century.