Coney Island: Beyond the Boardwalk

September 9, 2008 - November 1, 2008
Central Library, Grand Lobby
Coney Island: Beyond the Boardwalk

by Steven Hoffman

My intention with this exhibition is to document the people who live in the Coney Island housing projects, in the hopes that the larger world would understand and value the lives of these people.

In 2004, I met a community activist named Sonny Fonville, who knew everyone in the projects. With his help, I began a four-year journey through the housing projects along Surf, Mermaid and Neptune Avenues. In 2006, I started to take portraits of the people in Carey Gardens against a graffiti-covered wall on 23rd Street and Mermaid Avenue.

Many photo sessions turn into family affairs, as people stop by to discuss a picture of a child or grandchild. I like to give each of my subjects a copy of the photograph as a token of my appreciation. Sometimes when I arrive, people are already waiting to either have their portrait taken or get a picture I took of them several weeks before.

I use a wide angle lens in order to get as close to the subjects as possible. I usually take about 8 to 10 shots, which gives them a chance to relax and act as naturally as possible. One of the highest compliments I have been paid from relatives is "That's really them" or "That's how they really are."


Steven Hoffman's work in Coney Island was recently profiled by The New York Times. He has shown his work in a group show at Brooklyn Museum and in a solo show at Museum of the City of New York. It has also been published in City Limits magazine. He attended Brooklyn College and took advanced courses in printing and documentary photography at the International Center for Photography.


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