‘A Stroll Through Coney Island Among Friends’

Local color: People’s Playground photographers put Coney on display

The Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a Coney photo album.

Coney Island USA’s Arts Annex is exhibiting a montage of images captured in the People’s Playground by the very people who give the famous destination its color.

“A Stroll Through Coney Island Among Friends” compiles the pictures of five photographers who live and work in and around the amusement district and have caught its freaky scenery on film.

One such photographer is Bruce Handy, a Queens native who 10 years ago moved into his wife’s home in Brightwater Towers, across from the New York Aquarium.

“Coney Island is my backyard,” said Handy.

Handy said it took him a while to realize just how special his new playground was. At first, he spent most of his time in neighboring Brighton Beach. But one June afternoon, he stepped out of his building into a cavalcade of Coney Island freaks.

“One day I just walked out and it was the Mermaid Parade. And I just thought, ‘This is great.’ It was my first real exposure to Coney Island,” he said.

Handy, who began taking pictures as a teenager, was hooked. He joined the Coney Island Polar Bears and began snapping shots of the weird and wild action as it happened.

Handy describes himself as a “street photograph­er,” meaning he takes pictures of people in their unposed, natural state — or in what passes for natural in Sodom by the Sea.

The central photo in Handy’s part of the new exhibition is titled “Polar Bear Howl,” and depicts what happens when warm human flesh hits the raw winter waters off Coney Island’s shore.

“When you get in the water, it’s really cold, and one of the ways to warm up is to howl, like a polar bear howls,” explained Handy.

Also caught in Handy’s lens is the ever-evolving face of the amusement area, reshaping behind the people who move across it.

“I try to capture the people, the characters, but in the background of the people is Coney Island itself,” Handy said.

“A Stroll Through Coney Island Among Friends” at the Coney Island USA Arts Annex [1214 Surf Ave. between W. 12th Street and Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, (718) 372–5159,] Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 22–April 6, noon–5 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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