Music Montage from Coney Island to Istanbul


This poster has a history that spans decades and continents. It started in 1952 when American photographer Harold Feinstein created a photomontage of Brooklyn’s Coney Island Boardwalk that looked like a music score. Sixty years later on the other side of the planet, someone at Havas Worldwide Turkey in Istanbul flashed on Feinstein’s photomontage while brainstorming ideas for a print ad for Acik Radyo, the only non-state-owned radio station in Turkey. Acik Radyo covers global social and cultural issues and airs all types of music from around the world. Its motto is “Open to all sounds of the universe.” Feinstein’s artistic photomontage perfectly expressed the theme “Music of the People.” The poster was a big hit and went on to win multiple prestigious international honors, including the Cannes Gold Lion and Epica Grand Prix award.

The backstory for the making of the photo is equally serendipitous. One of the mid-century’s leading photo essayists, Feinstein, who is now in his 80s, recently recounted on his blog how he happened to make this famous photomontage. Crediting his friend Jacob Deschin of the New York Times for helping him to see the “music” in the photograph, Feinstein says that his first montage just showed a repetition of lines evoking a chant or bass line for a song. Deschin ran it in his column under the heading “Music Score.” That made Feinstein realize “there was another melody waiting to happen here…I went back to my contact sheets and began to pull out other frames and put them together in a new montage melody….[I used] a large figure on the first line to signal a loud proclamation to begin the piece, followed by a couple of grace notes, some pauses and a series of quarter notes in repetition….Since I can’t read music, I have to leave it to my imagination to hear what it’s saying.”

Feinstein did all this work in the pre-digital days, decades before Photoshop. The production process involved a lot of handwork. “Once I decided which frames to use, I put each in the enlarger, made the necessary crops, and penciled in each frame’s spot on a piece of plain paper, so that the entire montage was traced on one template. Then I took out the photographic paper, went back to each negative, created a mask around all of the lines I was developing and did this six times to complete the whole picture.” His effort was certainly worth it; his photo has found an appreciative new audience more than a half century later.