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January 17, 2013

A peek behind the camera lens

Noted local photographers to discuss their art form during Actors Studio series

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.

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