The gift that keeps on giving: The Coney Island boardwalk
I’ve never heard of a Cannes Lion before. I guess its the equivalent of an Oscar in the world of creative communications. According to Ergin Binyildiz, the chief creative officer for Havas Worldwide‘s Turkish office, “Cannes is the peak of creative competition, and any success recognized there is a success recognized by the whole world.” Well, last week we won a couple of these! The “we” includes Havas Worldwide, Radyo Acik and myself.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll remember that I was approached last year for the use of my photograph Coney Island Boardwalk (1952), as part of a campaign to support Radyo Acik, the only radio station in Turkey not owned by the state. Havas is an international marketing communications firm with social cause clients like Amnesty International as well as businesses like Sony and IKEA. I took a look at the radio station’s mission statement, waived all licensing fees and immediately said yes. It’s motto is “open to all the sounds of the universe.”
We learned in December that the campaign won some important awards including one of four Grand Prix awards at the Epica awards festivals — one of the most prestigious in the business. (See an earlier news post: Going for the Gold: Awards come in for the Music of the People campaign.) The image went viral and because of it, a curator at the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography in Moscow took a closer a my work, which has resulted in my upcoming retrospective show there in September. Last week, the campaign won a total of four more awards at the New York and Cannes advertising festivals. You can see why I call it the gift that keeps on giving. Furthermore I learned that the campaign had inspired numerous universities in Turkey and throughout Europe to use it as a case study in their marketing communications curricula.
According to the University of Amsterdam, which used the campaign as a case study for their course in Visual Metaphor in their marketing and communications curriculum, after the Gezi protests in June 2013, Radyo Acik decided to remind their audience of the universal values they try to represent.
The [Turkish]media was under pressure, and the situation was casting gloom over the society. The main aim was to focus on the hopeful and the positive as Açık Radyo always does. The incidents had brought together people from all walks of life, proving we can coexist. The work had to reflect harmony. The imagery needed to be sharp, elegant and to the point. Upon searching, Havas copywriter, Merve Selamet, discovered that Harold Feinstein’s collage was a perfect match for task. In this work, the image showed a score sheet made up of people. They are a part of the same melody. Hence we came up with the headline “The music of the people”.
While Radyo Acik’s social message is in line with my own sensibilities, I was particularly happy to contribute this image to their campaign because it really reflects my own experience of Coney Island as a place. The idea of the Coney Island boardwalk going global appeals to me since it was and is a commons for all people; a place where people from all walks of life from around New York and the world come to enjoy simple pleasures — and admission is free.
In just a couple of week I’m heading down to Coney Island with British filmmaker Andy Dunn who produces cultural programs for the BBC. Being in a wheelchair means I won’t get on the Cyclone this time, but it won’t stop me from enjoying my sixth decade of photographing the best place in the world; the place where I was born and spent my boyhood every week-end.
No matter what decade your living in, the Coney Island boardwalk is the gift that keeps on giving — a voyeur’s paradise where the world gathers on a Saturday afternoon or evening. I will send these photos on to my new friends in Istanbul — not for an advertising campaign but just because good friends like to share what they love with each other. I’m grateful that together we were able to bring the Coney Island boardwalk to the world.
Here are a few other scenes from the Coney Island Boardwalk through the decades…