Harvey Stein has been a fixture on the New York photo scene for many years. He has photographed the city from every angle with every kind of camera, at every time of day and night. For the last 40 years he's been going to Coney Island where New York City flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the end of Ocean Avenue, in Brooklyn.
There is a particularly Brooklyn flavor to Coney Island, and it's not just the Nathan's hot dogs or the cloyingly sweet smell of cotton candy mixed in with the salt air, it's the beckoning path of the boardwalk, the signature architectural landmarks of the parachute jump, the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone, but mostly it's the people who go there. They are the old Brooklyn Middle Class, and yet they are different from the crowds at The Rockaways, just to the south and east, or even to the Ukrainians and Russians who have annexed Brighton Beach right next door...little Odessa, as it is now called. They have an attitude which is about themselves, and how they identify and display themselves, but it's also about the character of the place where they have chosen to go to play out their small exuberant public performances.
Make no mistake about it, Coney Island is a theater, always was, and there is no shortage of actors here...And that's where Harvey Stein comes in. Harvey is an affable guy who likes to hang around the edges of the action. He views life with a wry eye and a knowing smile, although he often just waltzes in and becomes part of the dance. That's when he's at his best, when he sees things from no remove at all.
Harvey was around for a lot of transitions, starting at the end of Coney Island's post-war Golden Era, to it's slide into seediness, and now it's renaissance at the hands of the moneyed developers, into what is sure to be reminiscent of Times Square's Disneyfication. Stein shows us that there is a Coney Island continuity that maintains itself through all this...that the place is greater than the forces molding it. It's denizens are the ones projecting its aura, not the sanitizing marketing of the developers. Harvey Stein is seconding that motion in every picture he takes.