Photographers You Should Know
By Lou Jacobs Jr. with Jessica Gordon
The New York-based photographer has led a rich photographic life, and has much
to show for it, including his recent book documenting an iconic Brooklyn landmark.
Before Harvey Stein wasa widelypublished photographer, a teacher (at the International Center of Photography and several universities), lecturer, author, curator and
director of photography at Umbrella Gallery in New York City’s
East Village, he was simply a student studying photography at
the New School and New York University in various continuing
And in 1970, Stein—the student—was urged by his first photography teacher, Ben Fernandez, “to get a Leica, use a 21mm lens, and
go to Coney Island.” He complied.
Living in New York City, Stein had easy access to Coney Island
via the F line, and he fell in love with the assortment of characters
and activities at the Brooklyn landmark. He was beguiled by its
changing styles and visual continuity, and his curiosity of “the
People’s Playground” continued for the next 40 years.
“There is a sense of excitement, adventure…and escape from
daily worries, and there’s much pleasure…riding the jarring Cy-
clone roller coaster, walking the boardwalk, viewing the mind-
bending Mermaid Parade or just sunbathing on the beach,” Stein
says of his draw to the famed beach and amusement park. “There
isn’t anywhere like it, which is much of the attraction. Neither pho-
tography nor Coney Island are ever boring.”
Stein is no stranger to chasing excitement in life. He began his
career as a street photographer in New York City, selling images to
textbook publishers and magazines. He worked in a photo studio
for a year, building his portfolio and learning the business, and then
sold images and did magazine assignments and some portraiture
for titles that include The New Yorker, Time, Life, Esquire, Smith-
sonian, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and the list goes on.
While he says he was never “influenced” by other photographers,
he professes a love for Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Garry Win-
ogrand, and Lee Friedlander and adds, “My all-time favorite pho-
tographer may be August Sander.”
Stein began teaching at the International Center of Photography
in 1976, and in the 1990s he started leading travel workshops all
over the world, including Italy, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Mexico,
Peru, Ecuador and Argentina, as well as the U.S. He’s had more
than 75 one-person exhibits and has been in more than 145 group
shows. Now as director of photography for Umbrella Arts Gallery,
Stein’s main role is looking for emerging photographers and help-
ing deserving photographers get their work seen.