I love this life. I feel like I am always catching my breath and saying, 'Oh! Will you look at that?' Photography has been my way of bearing witness to the joy I find in seeing the extraordinary in ordinary life. You don't look for pictures. Your pictures are looking for you.
You must photograph where you are involved; where you are overwhelmed by what you see before you; where you hold your breath while releasing the shutter, not because you are afraid of jarring the camera, but because you are seeing with your guts wide open to the sweet pain of an image that is part of your life.
I was drawn to street photography because there are pictures everywhere there: a woman holding a dog, a baby screaming to be put in a pram, kids playing punch ball, stores with huge barrels of kosher pickles outside. I wanted to photograph life, and here it was.
I was born in Coney Island. I like to think I fell out of the womb onto the fun park's giant Parachute Jump while eating a Nathan's hot dog.
Coney Island was the centre of the world for me. I loved the rides, the hot dogs - I've never gotten over it.
I always feel I had a very lucky life. For example, I sure didn't want to go in the army: when I was drafted in the Korean War, I wanted to go as a photographer. But luckily, they put me in the infantry - luckily because the official photographer was photographing the medal awarding and all the official situations.
The thing is that pictures are everywhere. The question is what we don't see, and why don't we see so much. I just see it.
Mostly, I worked so quickly, I didn't see the details of a photograph until it was printed.
I began photographing in 1946. Before that, I was a painter and drawer, with my mother and father's support. They were a bit pissed when I went into photography. They thought photographers were guys who took pictures at weddings.
Coney Island is and always will be 'the people's playground.' It's a place where people of all backgrounds come to have a good time.