Ron Gessel: Black and White Street Photography in Coney Island

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All images by Ron Gessel. Used with permission.

“When I am in New York I always go to Coney Island to shoot there. Especially on a warm summer day; you see the most fascinating people, you see them everywhere.” says photographer Ron Gessel who lives and works in Amsterdam. “Everybody has their own story and I try to capture their stories. For me it is just like a candy shop.”

Before becoming a photographer, Ron trained in graphic design and became an art director for many ad agencies. After teaching himself photography, he started to travel more often. For Ron, photography was always an interest that was only truly awoken during the digital revolution. “It was so much easier to take pictures because you could see the results immediately. Then i decided to combine my profession as an art director with photography.” In 2012, he received the prestigious PANL Award, presented by the Dutch Association of advertising, print and fashion photographers. And just recently, he featured part one of a Coney Island street photography project on Behance.

Ron’s travels have helped define his love of street photography. “I like to travel a lot and on my travels i am always amazed by people in there habitat.” states Ron. He’s attracted to and fascinated by folks who he says are a bit different and who tell stories.  “I had that in the analog era and still have it in the digital era.”

Coney Island is based in the southern end of Brooklyn, NY and is a very famous landmark. Years ago, it was in its glory days of being colorful, well funded and a great spot for tourists and locals alike. But the neighborhood fell on hard financial times after the 9/11 incident and the country’s two recessions. Today, it is a shell of what it used to be–though the characters are still present and it’s still a fairly colorful neighborhood that attracts tourists. This is what inspired Ron’s creative decision to shoot in black and white. “…most of the times the photos from Coney Island are in color, but this time i wanted something different. Like i said i have been a couple of times on Coney Island and always took my photos in color. I wanted to tell the stories of the people on the photos and i think in black and white there stories become stronger.”

These characters are the focus of Ron’s candid street photos. “People don’t really know I take pictures of them because they are pretty distracted by their surrounding.” says Ron. “Sometimes I call it pickpocketing because they are not aware of me.” Considering his use of a Sony RX 100 Mk III for this project, it only makes sense.

Ron’s kit has evolved though. When he did advertising, he used a Nikon D810; and most of the time these days he uses a Fujifilm X-T1 with 14mm, 18mm and 35mm lenses.

More of Ron’s images from the series are below.

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