Southern Brooklyn

New Photo Exhibit Depicts Coney Island In the Early 1960s


In the spirit of the weather warming up and summer right around the corner, New York Magazine featured photographer Aaron Rose and the pictures he took in Coney Island between 1961 and 1963. Even on this rainy Thursday, these pictures will make you want to stop whatever you’re doing and go to the beach.

From NY Magazine:

Rose, a lifelong New Yorker himself, documented his fellow residents as they spilled out from every neighborhood for their annual migration to Brookyn’s [sic] end. The swimsuit styles are a little different, but it looked even then like it was impossible to find a spot for your towel.

Rose’s photos are now part of an exhibit opening tomorrow at the Museum of the City of New York. It’s called “In a World of Their Own.”

Just as Rose was well known for his intimate portraits of New York life, he was also admired for his technical skills in the darkroom. The museum notes in its release:

Rose is considered a photographer’s photographer: the process of making the photographs is as important to him as the final product. In an era when black-and-white photography was widespread, Rose took what he learned during his short stint in the commercial sector to create highly unusual prints. Rose seized upon a new technology – chromogenic color film – for his Coney Island photographs and … Rose’s photographs capture the heat of the summer, and give them what [critic] Aletti has called the “burnished glow of a fresh tan” so reminiscent of a day at the beach.

Below are some of the images shared on the museum’s website.

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  1. its sickening how fat americans got. in that pic with all the people there are 0 fatties. if we did this today, more than half would be obese.

  2. As a little kid in the early 1960’s I spent a lot of summer time on the beach at Coney Island. I’m curious. The first photo, which depicts a very large gathering on the beach, has piqued my interest. What Bay is that? What concession supplied those umbrellas? What proof can be submitted, that the photo shown, is indeed of a group on one of the beach bays at Coney Island, in the period from 1961-1963?

  3. And the ones who are fit they look like they are going to explode from all the steroids and supplements they take.
    Natural looking slim athletic body is a rare sight nowadays.

  4. I remember the beach crowded like that in the mid to late 1950s and early 60s. If it was in the high nineties and you arrived after 2PM, you were stuck under the boardwalk, because there literally wasn’t an inch to put down your blanket under the sun. (Under the boardwalk was also fairly crowded.) Also, since no area was set aside as a public walkway, you had to step on people’s blankets just to get to the shore. That was when express trains operated seven days a week.


  6. Thanks, Rat! Very informative site…Now if I can only get verifiable responses to my other questions, especially my last one, because recalling the demographics at the time, I’m skeptical that the first photo jives with the years mentioned! At least, the bays, we were always on! Nonetheless, you’ve been very helpful, and the Daze appreciates it!

  7. It could get crowded like that into the late sixties. But by the early 70s it got much sparser.

    It seems to me that lots of places in NYC were more crowded before the 70s.

  8. Our very own Lisanne? is correct. Even though NYC’s population has grown recently, the number of theme parks, water parks and cheaper air travel (think Disney World and Universal) has grown exponentially, thus places like Coney Island cannot help but lose some crowds. I am glad to see the new Coney Island site continue to prosper and grow. We owe some of this to the late Horace Bullock who was a visionary of Coney island

  9. Thanks for sharing. I found the photos entertaining. People sure flocked to the beach back in the 1960s. They didn’t know about skin cancer at that time, some even putting on baby oil with/without iodine mixed in. I grew up in The Bronx back in the 1960s. Orchard Beach in The Bronx and Jones Beach out on Long Island were always crowded like your picture depicts. That’s why my father would get us up and out of the house at the crack of dawn, so we could get a good spot to pitch our rented umbrella.

  10. I also suspect that some of the loss in the early 70s was the result of the increase in detected skin cancers around that time. Newspaper articles were warning people to avid overexposure and beaches, with their lack of shaded areas were considered particularly unsafe in this regard. My sister got skin cancer in the early 80s, she was still very much into beaches at that time.

    Bullock had some very constructive ideas about Coney Island’s redevelopment, and would have committed a very large amount of money towards that end were he allowed to do as early as the 90s.

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