You’ve probably heard, our photographic family has lost the inimitable Harold Feinstein at age 84. I feel privileged to have known Harold a little bit. And it didn’t take long to recognize that he was a truly free spirit, with a strong emphasis on the spirit. With a lifeline that paralleled the greatest era in modern photography, Feinstein was one of the youngest members of NY’s Photo League. He worked with photographers like Edward Steichen, who acquired three of then 19-year old Feinstein’s prints for MoMA and W. Eugene Smith, who became his lifelong friend. He immersed himself in NY’s vibrant jazz scene, even living for a time in the storied “jazz loft”.
“Making the Best of It, Troopship to Korea, 1952” by Harold Feinstein (courtesy of the artist’s estate and Panopticon Gallery, Boston).
A legendary teacher, he was nonetheless a perennial student, always interpreting the ordinary stuff of living with fresh eyes. Feinstein had a genius for guiding us to the beauty in others in the same gifted way that Diane Arbus made us aware of their flaws or Garry Winogrand conveyed satire. In photographs ranging from his carefree Coney Island revelers to his homesick GIs at war, Feinstein’s compassion was as infectious as his laughter. Even when he became physically limited in later years, his bright botanical photography conveyed his effervescent outlook. To me, Feinstein’s great legacy will be his generous and touching reflection of our best selves.
“Screaming on the Cyclone, Coney Island, 1955” by Harold Feinstein (courtesy of the artist’s estate and Panopticon Gallery, Boston).