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Marsh, Wooden Horses (Coney Island)
- During the Great Depression, amusements like Steeplechase Park in Coney Island provided an affordable escape from the anxieties of daily life. Coney Island attracted people of different classes, races, and genders, bringing them together in ways that were not always considered socially acceptable in other environments.
- Reginald Marsh documented the lives and activities of the working class, part of a general trend in the 1930s towards capturing life realistically. While many of his colleagues, including the photographer Dorothea Lange, worked in rural areas, Marsh focused his attention on life in urban spaces.
- Marsh’s depictions of women combine elements of reality and popular culture that portray women through a voyeuristic and sexualized lens. His buxom figures were inspired by movie stars, and also reflect the salacious spectacle of Coney Island, where working-class women like those in this image could supplement their income in dance halls and popular entertainment.
More to think about
Coney Island was a place of social permissiveness, entertainment, and escape that crossed lines of class, race, and gender. What are some settings that function in this way today? How would you compare these contemporary examples to the scene that Marsh shows us in his work?