Jean has devoted the last eight years to a personal project documenting the diverse communities that give Coney Island that distinct character legends are made of, like Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, the Mermaid Festival, and the famous Coney Island Polar Bear’s New Year’s Day Swim, and of course the Coney Island Amusement Park and Boardwalk. Jean was inspired by a group of athletes that she noticed, regularly working out on the beach just off the boardwalk at Coney Island. Jean describes her seduction. “I began photographing them in 2014, seduced both by their talent and the aesthetics of the well-toned bodies silhouetted against the Summer sky. I found myself coming back again and again.”
Over the years, Jean watched the athletes come and go, keeping almost a constant rotation of new energy and spirit. Jean describes what she has discovered through her investigative studies. “There is clearly a system, a rigor, and a rhythm that I’ve never fully understood. And while there’s a core group of regulars, the cast of characters changes based on the season, the week, and the time of day. Visitors are welcomed with encouragement and while the core group skews, young and male, it is ethnically diverse. Some of the most skilled athletes are well over fifty. These images embody all that I love most about Coney Island. sun, sand, and community. For that reason, this is an ongoing project.”
Jean’s ability to understand her subject has come from a diligent practice of carefully looking and listening with her eyes. Her public service has given her the gift of not being afraid to approach and engage the community she is inspired by. She has learned to reach other people through being an observer and a listener, as well as a brilliantly talented photographer.