Set The Bar
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Toronto Jewish Film Festival: Last Stop Coney Island: The Life and Photography of Harold Feinstein

This is a smooth flowing film revealing an embarrassment of riches. It is one you really must see if you love photography or consider yourself a photographer. You’ll be treated to many of Feinstein’s photos.

From the 40’s onward Feinstein was one of America’s premier photographers. I can tell you this but unless you see this film you might say who is this guy? One career limiting move he made was refusing permission to the Museum of Modern Art in New York to print and crop his photographs so he walked away from a huge exhibit “Family of Man” that was enormously successful in 1955 in New York and to every destination it travelled to. It established the reputation of photographers participating in it.

The documentary is not only about his photographs but his life. I’ll leave his life aside other than saying as a child it wasn’t pleasant with a disciplinarian (abusive) father growing up in a Jewish/Italian section of Brooklyn. It was so intolerable he left home at 15. At 17 he was admitted into the prestigious Photographer’s League in New York and by 19 he had sold 4 of his photographs to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As one of the commentators noted he was a child prodigy.

He is perhaps best known for his Coney Island pictures a brilliant capturing of the mass of humanity at the beach. As Feinstein says how could you not get a good photograph there. How could you avoid it? Strangely he made his money and reputation on flowers he scanned and published a book “100 Flowers” in 2005. Feinstein’s photographs about his fellow soldiers in the Korean war are also stellar.

Yes and then a couple of comments made in the film one from Feinstein saying he was capturing the moment and a commentator remarking that Feinstein was being non-judgemental just brought it home that is the essence of mindfulness! Are all great photographers mindful?

I really love the work of Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus and now I am adding Harold Feinstein to the list. Interesting that all were New Yorkers.

It plays in Toronto at Innis Town Hall on May 10 at 1 p.m. It is a UK film made in 2018 and directed by Andy Dunn. For more information about the film and to get sucked into it by watching the trailer

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