Harold Feinstein launched his decades-long photography career in 1946 as a 15-year-old in New York City. Within four years, his work had been purchased for the permanent collection at the city’s Museum of Modern Art.
Feinstein, who calls himself “a born observer of life” was already interested in drawing and painting as a youth. Then, he was met the neighbor upstairs from him in Coney Island, New York.
“(He) was a photographer and he would show me his photos and occasionally I would rent his Rollieflex camera for $5 a day,” Feinstein said this week. “I loved it because it seemed so easy and I like easy. Once I started, it just began to flow.”
Soon, Feinstein had a successful career and a secure place among the most elite photographers of the day.
As a 17-year-old, he joined the Photo League, a group of amateur and professional photographers in New York during the 1930s and 1940s.
“The Photo League did have photographers all over the world as members including Henri Cartier Bresson, W. Eugene Smith and Paul Strand, among others,” he said. “It was wonderful to be in their company and hear the arguments that were going on at the time, like, ‘is photography an art?.’ My answer to that was, ‘photography is no more an art that writing is literature. It depends on who’s doing it.’”
By age 17, Feinstein was also one of the pioneers of the early street photography scene in the city, although the iconic scenes of Coney Island had a special place in his heart and offered many of his favorite images to capture.
When asked this week, if there was one aspect of his long, illustrious career that gave him the most pride, Feinstein, who now lives in Merrimac, said he takes pleasure in all of his accomplishments.
“I find the most pride and joy in all of it,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Being paid to do what you love is, of course, marvelous and gaining recognition along with it is better yet.”
The public can hear more about Feinstein’s distinguished career when the photographer gives the first presentation in a new series at The Actors Studio of Newburyport. The program, “Art Changes Everything: The Lens Through Which You View The World” begins on Sunday and will be held on the fourth Sunday of each month through April.
Each session will feature a presentation by a local photographer, followed by a question-and-answer period with the audience. An exhibit of their work will also be on display. Topics will include how photographers approach the ever-changing art form and the nuances of working in this field. “I will share reflections on my life as a photographer and teacher, both of which I love dearly and will engage people in sharing thoughts about creative process,” Feinstein said. “I’ve taught for over 60 years and much of my teaching is about how to liberate ourselves to discover our creativity.”
Actors Studio owner Marc Clopton said Feinstein is the perfect person to launch the new series.
“He’s a living legend,” Clopton said. “He’s a major influence in photography. He has six decades of experience and productivity to share.”
Each of the photographic artists will discuss their specialty, he said, as they are all quite different from each other. The theme of the series will be to look through the camera lens and the way that one views the world, Clopton said.
In February, Beverly photographer Barbara Peacock will give a talk about her Nightingale Project, through which she taught art and photography to children in Cambodia; in March, York, Maine photographer Joanne Arnold will discuss her experiences capturing images in nature and her daily practice of photographing the sunrise during her morning meditation, and Jeremy Barnard, of Georgetown, will be the final speaker in April as he discusses digital technology and landscape photography.
The series will lead up to a new initiative called “Dear Newburyport” that the theater will hold in June. That photography program is based on a project that emerged in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Art Changes Everything,” four sessions with noted photographers
WHEN: January through April, fourth Sunday, 3 p.m.
WHERE: The Actors Studio of Newburyport, 50 Water St., Mill 1, Suite 5, Newburyport
HOW: $14 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. For reservations, call 978-465-1229 or go online to brownpaperticket.com.