Once upon a time, in the first decades of the twentieth century, Coney Island was a democratic paradise where rich and poor alike doffed their clothes and immersed themselves in continuous pleasures of the flesh, the eyes, and the city-dweller's lust for thrills.
By the time Peter Granser came to check out the place it had reached a peculiar juncture. Efforts were already under way to renew the island. Granser trained his camera on a Coney Island in transition.
Granser allows his subjects a modicum of dignity, though they may seem silly, undeservedly pretentious, sad, even outrageous to a casual observer. His photographs take people on their own terms-and on our own terms, we humans prefer to think we are worth presenting to the world. Standing at a middle distance, both physically and emotionally, he maintains a lingering degree of the kind of neutrality that Walker Evans thought he could accomplish by refusing to treat his subjects like objects. Granser is wholly aware that the pride and imagination of certain people are as tacky and incongruous as the perplexing culture they maneuver in, but his comments, sometimes made by way of wry pairs of pictures, are delivered with calm irony, like a remark made by someone with a subtle sense of humor who changes neither his tone nor his facial expression
– Extracts from the essay 'The Democratic
Paradise' by Vicki Goldberg.