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Forever Coney: Photographs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection

November 20, 2015–March 13, 2016

Stephen Salmieri (American, born 1945). Coney Island, 1971. Gelatin silver photograph, image: 8 × 1018 in. (20.3 × 25.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Edward Klein, 82.201.48. ©Stephen Salmieri. (Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum)

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Here are some questions visitors asked us during their visit to this exhibition.

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What would people at this time period wear in the water? Definitely not this, right?
Swimwear was significantly more conservative in the past, and this photograph was from the mid-19th century. I'm not sure exactly what people wore into the water at this time, I'm not entirely certain that swimwear separate from regular clothing had been invented. I know as recently as the 1920's wool dresses and body suits were the norm for bathing.
Because of this, would they swim or play in the water less?
You are most likely correct. The development of more practical attire was driven by the rising popularity of beach-going in the 20th century. If you find George Bradford Brainerd's "Bathers, Steel Pier, Coney Island" in the same gallery, you'll see what people wore into the water in the 1880's
What would they do on the beach? Because according to the pictures there were tons of people!
At the dawn of Coney Island as a destination, there were entertainments on the beach. You can see a painting of puppet show for example in the first gallery of Coney Island: Visions of a American Dreamland. These entertainments developed into attractions on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk at Coney Island (on a conceptual level) predates the kind of beachgoing you see in Ross's 1946 photograph.
You're looking at a work by Lynn Hyman Butler "Wonder Wheel at Night." Its one of the few color works on view in Forever Coney. Though the technique used to make it is very different from traditional color photography. Would you like to hear more about Butler's process for making this (I warn you it is very photo-techy!)
Thank you. That is what I wanted to know! I have no idea about "silver dye bleach technique".
The simplest explanation is that as the only available method to create handmade photographic prints directly from color slide film. It is a direct-positive, meaning that no negatives are created or used, unlike traditional color processes. Yellow, magenta and cyan dyes are incorporated into a white-opaque polyester based paper and bleached during processing to reveal their latent color. Likely the artist shot these images in her large format camera with a slow exposure, to achieve the motion blur. and later altered the color effects in the developing in the dark room.
The artist has said,  "I try to capture the sense of time passing. I hope that the photographs will be a reminder that we are on the edge of a century in which the fate of many life forms, including our own, will be determined, and the decision of whether to save or relinquish landscapes such as these will be of increasing urgency."
Amazing. Thanks for the answer. This is very helpful!
You're welcome! It is a truly difficult process, and increasingly rare as production of the materials has recently ended.