The Boardwalk Benches of Brighton Beach
Going to the Coney Island/Brighton Beach boardwalk on the Fourth of July has long been a tradition for my family. When I was young, my grandmother lived in a housing project just a couple of blocks from the beach and we would visit her on holidays and take long walks on the boardwalk. When she died, my father took over her apartment and I would visit him as a teenager, and then smoke pot under the boardwalk and go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. As a young adult, I would go with my brothers and sister or friends to listen to bands at the Freak Show in Coney Island or eat pirogis and drink vodka in the Russian restaurants in Brighton, always making a point of walking on the boardwalk.
After I moved down to Mexico City in 1989, I would come back to visit NYC a few times a year. A trip to the city in 2011 coincided with the Fourth of July, and having just bought a new camera I decided to take it for a test drive. After I smoked a joint on a boardwalk bench I got the idea of taking portraits of all the other people sitting on the dozens of other boardwalk benches. I walked the whole length of the boardwalk from Coney Island down to Brighton Beach, shooting portraits from the hip.
The boardwalk has always been a parade of people from all over the world, especially the latest waves of immigrants to the city and, since the photographic camera was invented, it’s also been an incredible photo-op for photographers from all over the world. For me, there’s nowhere else on this planet where I can take photographs and enjoy myself as much at the same time.
Kurt Hollander is a writer and fine art/documentary photographer. He currently lives in Cali, Colombia.