CONEY ISLAND POLAR BEARS
«Coney Island Polar Bears» is a project Sonia Goydenko has been working on for a few years now. She began photographing the Coney Island Polar Bear Club about six years ago. It may not look like it, but these photographs were taken during winter. The weather is usually 25°F (around -4°C) with wind gusts at 30 mph (50 km/h), but that does not stop the Coney Island Polar Bear Club from bathing in the Atlantic Ocean every week. If anything, the colder, the better. These incredibly brave souls come together every winter Sunday in Coney Island to take a dip in the freezing water. Sonia Goydenko photographed them in sandstorms and freezing rain, on Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Wonderful how these people go into the ocean every week, no matter the weather.
Photographing the Coney Island Polar Bears centres around the theme of loneliness that an urban dweller experiences. «Coney Island Polar Bears» is about an expression of joy, a zest for life, and the importance of a community. It is an ongoing series that the author hopes to continue in the winter of 2021.
Sonia Goydenko is a Ukrainian photographer based in New York, United States. She discovered photography around six years ago when her stepfather bought her a Nikon point and shoot camera. However, that was not the beginning—Sonia Goydenko likes to say that her journey started a long way back.
She has always been keen on noticing things while walking the streets. When she was five years old, her grandfather would take her on these all day walks around the town. They would start in the morning and did not return until late in the day. Her family had just come to America from Ukraine, and they would walk all around the neighbourhood. Even though her grandfather only knew three sentences in English, he still managed to stop and talk to everyone along the way. Sonya thinks of these long walks as a primer for how she views the world now. Instead of being afraid of the world, she was engaged by it. After a few years, with hard work and many frames taken, she began to form her style. After a transition from black and white to colour photography in 2019, she is now fully immersed in the boldness and exquisite beauty of colour photography.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, she also began working on her first photo book composed of dreams mixed with photographs taken out in the world in response to the various emotions felt during such experiences. She is currently working on another book titled “Shadowplay”, following her shadow out in the world. Her photography work has become an exploration of memories, light, colour, and the surreal.