As a New York City tour guide, I am often asked, "where should we go?" My response, "Coney Island! And make sure to bring a camera and lots, and lots of film!"
To tourists, Coney Island is a historic seaside amusement park. True, it is. But beneath it’s skin, it’s a strange, dirty, and timeless Brooklyn neighborhood. A street photographer’s dream; vibrant, colorful, and magical. It can also be a total freak show.
It’s no news to natives that a developer has purchased the 40-year old Astroland Amusement Park and much of the surrounding land and over the last several years, has been cleansing and modernizing it. Alas, the “new” New York City. The Cyclone still runs, leaving you frightened and bruised, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel still turns, but like Times Square, Astroland, the boardwalk, and Stillwell Avenue are getting face-lifts.
I made weekly trips to Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach during the summer of 2009, to document the landscape, the remaining old amusements, and peoples’ interactions with them. I wanted people to remember what Coney Island was like prior to modern development. I wanted to create a record of the Coney while it clung to chain link fences and lurked beneath the boardwalk.
I carried a DSLR, and all kinds of other technical crap, but found no better way to capture the crux of Coney Island than with a Lomography Fisheye, a Holga 120N, and pockets full of film. When I tell tourists to hop on the subway or rent a bike and head south to the bottom of Brooklyn, this is what I hope they’ll find. I hope, but know, these may be the last days of Coney Island.
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