Sections

Sea his shots: Exhibit shows 20 years of the Mermaid Parade

Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Photo gallery

1/4
Trident trio: A man and two women pose with a huge trident at the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island in 1998.
2/4
Here they are: Women dressed as mermaids wave to the crowds from their float in 2001.
3/4
Feel it: Two women put their hands up as they dance on the Boardwalk in 2007.
4/4
Cyclone girl: Woman poses with a Cyclone hat during the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, with the Astro Tower and Cyclone rollercoaster in the background in 2008.

He has focused on the parade.

A photo exhibit opening in Boerum Hill on June 24 will showcase two decades of costumed beauties from the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. The Carroll Gardens photographer behind “Coney Island Mermaids, 1996–2016,” says that his work — on display for the first time — displays the beauty of everyday people, and also captures the changing nature of the People’s Playground.

“The pictures are about the people, but in the background you can see Coney Island changing,” said Luke Ratray. “I really noticed that while editing — you can see buildings that don’t exist anymore.

The new stores that crop up behind the saucy sirens in Ratray’s photos are a sign of soul-draining gentrification, he said.

“Now we’re looking at Applebee’s, and It’s Sugar, and these sites don’t hold any connection to the community at all,” he said. “It’s not that the dirt was better — it was better with the hand-painted signs, the pride they took in putting together their storefronts. That human touch is being cleaned away.”

Ratray, who started shooting pictures in the late ’70s, discovered the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in 1995, and was immediately enamored. He returned with his camera the next year, and every year since then, snapping black-and-white photos of the fascinating people at the parade.

“It made an impression on me. It was beautiful, and it was scary,” said Ratray.

He still shoots on film, preferring the connection that he can make with his subjects without the pressure to check a digital display immediately after each shot.

“There’s a better human interaction with film, than with digital — you can concentrate on your subject more,” said Ratray.

Visitors to this year’s Mermaid Parade may spot Ratray shooting on Surf Avenue, getting a few last shots to complete his exhibit. The artist says that he is drawn most to creative costumes and designs, and hopes that his show will spark a creative bulb in its viewers and inspire them to visit Coney Island.

“I hope it will inspire more creativity. People can see what was done in the past, and that can give them ideas for their own pursuits,” said Ratray. “I want to bring attention to small businesses and the organization of Coney Island USA — they’re really the ones preserving the heritage.”

“Coney Island Mermaids, 1996–2016” at Urban Folk Art Gallery [101 Smith St. between Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street in Boerum Hill, (718) 643–1610, www.urbanfolkart.com]. Opening reception June 24 at 7 pm. Exhibit open daily through July 24, noon–8:30 pm. Free.

34th Annual Mermaid Parade (Surf Avenue from W. 21st Street to W. 10th Street, www.coneyisland.com). June 18 at 1 pm. Free.

Posted 12:00 am, June 16, 2016
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reasonable discourse

Gimme from Yourz says:
Where dey big titties?
June 19, 2016, 6:16 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Don’t miss out!

Stay in touch with the stories people are talking about in your neighborhood:

Optional: Help us tailor our newsletters to you!