Coney Island

Portraits of Uninhibited New Yorkers on Coney Island’s Crowded Beach in the 1960s


This holiday weekend marks the start of the summer vacation season. City dwellers across the country will be making a mass exodus to nearby sandy beaches to catch the first rays of summer sun. Many New Yorkers will pay a visit to the city’s most famous beach, Coney Island.

Between 1961 and 1963, photographer Aaron Rose ventured to the Brooklyn hotspot with camera in hand, capturing intimate portraits of sunbathers and swimmers. There’s a wonderful diversity across Rose’s images of uninhibited beachgoers — New Yorkers of all races, ethnicities, sexualities, and body types. Coney Island is famous for its boardwalk attractions, but Rose proved some of the most interesting scenes were happening on the beach. Rose worked with chromogenic color film, experimenting with the new process by increasing the speed and grain. This gave his works a sun-kissed glow, reminiscent of his half-nude subjects.

The Museum of the City of New York is hosting the first exhibition of the photographer’s work, on view until August 3 — and we have a preview of the show in our gallery. See how New Yorkers embraced the crowds, sand, and surf of Coney Island during the 1960s — and let it all hang out — below.
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