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Harold Feinstein: One of America’s forgotten photographers

From a young age, Feinstein was hanging around the same circles as such as Cartier-Bresson, Weegee and W. Eugene Smith. At 19 he had three images purchased by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern art.

A new documentary highlights how and why he stepped away from this bright future to find another love in teaching. Engaging director Andy Dunn focuses on the photographs themselves with a sensitive and superb chronicle of postwar New York.

The new documentary, brings to light the life of Harold Feinstein. Known as a ‘trued American photographer’, this New Yorker was capable of finding warmth and beauty in the everyday. From Coney Island, he is known as one of the foremost chroniclers of life in USA.

Like most true artists Feinstein only really got the recognition for his work in his later life. Dying in 2015 age 84, he managed to evade fame throughout the younger years of his career. This new documentary aims to tell the world his mageastic story.

Thierry Bigaignon described Fein stein as one of the “true American” photographers: a foremost chronicler of life in the USA. Feinstein managed to capture the subjects of his images with their guard down. His collection depicts human experience giving it warmth and grace that was unmatched.

Success came fast to Feinstein at first as a young, up and coming photographer in the 50s, Dunn explains that Feinstein wasn’t one to “play ball” with institution and galleries, soon disappearing from the New York scene. Despite this, his workload never stopped and he curated a cast back catalogue of mesmerising images. ‘Last Stop Coney Island’ highlights these years where he was away from the scene, filling in the blanks of this mysterious character.

Speaking in an interview with Huck Magazine, Dunn said: “deciding to make the film about Harold came after I’d devoured all the work on view and then discovered that he’d also led a fascinating life.

“He grew up in Coney Island, was drafted into the Korean war, rubbed shoulders with some the greatest jazz musicians in Manhattan in the ’50s – and [then] disappeared from the photography world. It amazes me even how some of the New York photography community still don’t know his work,” he added.

The film sheds light on his love of teaching, where “Harold Awakened their creativity”, his relationships, his addictions and travels away from the US. “Harold’s work is already a time capsule of an America that is no more but I think Harold’s legacy will be seen in the lives and art of those people he met and inspired when he was alive, they all carry a little of him with them… Beyond those lucky people, I hope people who see the film will join me in learning from Harold’s advice: “Be creative with your life, that’s the most important canvas.”

(All images via Huck)