“I began making this work in July, when I decided I would have the discipline to take the train to Coney Island and photograph every day,” photographer Mark Hartman explains. The south west Brooklyn neighbourhood is no stranger to the camera lens, its melancholic, faded beauty making it a no-brainer backdrop for films including The Warriors and Requiem for a Dream.
The beach and the ramshackle fairground which soars above it, is now so distinctive that the photographer – whose wide-reaching client list includes enRoute, Esquire, Conde Nast, Financial Times, Harpers, Monocle, _The New York Times, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, The New Yorker, Nike, National Geographic, Vogue and W – decided that the neighbourhood would feature purely as an unidentifiable, abstracted skyline and seascape in Islands.
“I gave myself a set of rules: no Coney Island iconography, and I decided to use the natural environment only, sky, sand, water,” Mark says. “The focus was on the people, the feeling and not the place. My objective was to connect on a deeper level with people, and tell some of my own story through posed portraits.”
Those portraits revel in a strikingly stark beauty which echoes Coney Island’s deep-lodged atmosphere of despondency. “In many of the pictures, I was attempting to describe my own initiations up until adulthood and my own suffering,” Mark continues. “By doing this I was examining other peoples suffering, and trying to show that we are not that different as people once the vale of ego is taken away. The project is about culture and about being human, that we are all one and more connected than we realise.”