HAROLD FEINSTEIN • Contagious Optimism (1940s-1950s)

3 FEBRUARY - 30 APRIL 2017

Harold Feinstein, the renaissance of a photography prodigy!

Harold Feinstein, "Contagious Optimism"

When he died in June 2015 at the age of 84, the New York Times declared Harold Feinstein “one of the most accomplished recorders of the American experience.” His work is owned by prestigious museums, corporations and private collectors, yet this great artist is practically unknown in Europe. Galerie Thierry Bigaignon aims to change that by presenting an exceptional retrospective of his work that will span several years — a first of its kind in Europe.

Feinstein was born in Coney Island in 1931. At the age of 15 he dropped out of school and began photographing his native Coney Island. By the age of 19, Edward Steichen had purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA), making him the youngest person to be so honored. Indeed, the photography world at the time considered him a child prodigy.

At 17, he became the youngest member of the historic Photo League founded by Sid Grossman. In 1954, upon returning from the Korean War at the age of 23, he became one of the original inhabitants of the legendary “Jazz Loft”. He later turned over his loft space to his good friend and colleague W. Eugene Smith with whom he worked closely on the famous Pittsburgh Project. Eugene Smith would later say about him: “Harold Feinstein is one of the very few photographers I have known or have been influenced by with the ability to reveal the familiar to me as beautifully new, in a strong and honest way”.

As a representative of the so-called 'New York school of photography', Feinstein spent six decades photographing the streets of New York and became known for his appreciative and empathic portrayal of the human condition. Though his Coney Island work has been much celebrated, Feinstein's breadth and exposure is far greater, including a large body of classic street photography, nudes, portraits, still life and an intimate portrayal of the life of a conscripted soldier during the Korean War.

Former New York Times critic and historian A.D. Coleman wrote: "Harold Feinstein is a true photographer’s photographer, and one of the most seriously under-recognized senior figures in U.S. photography". Thierry Bigaignon adds: « Harold is no doubt one of the masters of the 20th century. Just like Vivian Maier whose photographs were only unveiled after her death or Jacques-Henri Lartigue whose talent was discovered at 70 years old, Harold’s remarkable work is now being re-discovered by the art world. Anyone who gets a chance to hold Harold’s prints in their hands, will begin to understand what the world has been missing. They are masterpieces. »

The Galerie Thierry Bigaignon is happy to be introducing Harold Feinstein's immeasurable talent and legacy to a new audience, preparing for his ‘renaissance’. Its retrospective will span over several years. The first part of which will be dedicated to the early years of Harold Feinstein's work (1940’s and 1950’s) with a selection of black and white photographs full of humanist qualities and contagious optimism.