July, 2017, AJ Bernstein

World adventurer AJ Bernstein captures the excitement of this summer’s Mermaid Parade in all its exhibitionist glory.

-As AJ herself says:

“At Burning Man, Left Coast artists get to suffer in the sand, co-opted by the 1%; in Coney Island, the Mermaid Parade celebrates the spirit of pure creative joy.”

For more about AJ’s work, please visit her Facebook page:


And read her amazing bio below the photographs.



































AJ tells her story:

“Raised in Sheepshead Bay, long before Brooklyn was hip, I planned my escape—college in Boston, then off to pursue the life of a freelance photographer, first in Manhattan and then in Los Angeles.  With a talent for environmental portraits, I freelanced for national and international magazines and corporations, including Money, Forbes, NY Times Magazine, People, Sport Diver, IBM, Philip Morris and many more. But wanderlust finally won out, and with credit cards, cameras, and scuba gear in tow I traveled the world alone, writing and shooting quirky adventure stories.  My favorite journey was diving to eerie, wrecked Japanese WW II ships, 200 feet down off the coast of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea; a volcano erupted after I was there and buried them all. Back in the states, I migrated to Venice Beach, CA, and learned freediving to follow blue water hunters off the coast of Baja, Mexico.

Then I took a long, unintended hiatus from my cameras.

A few years ago, forces drew me back to Brooklyn. I rediscovered Coney Island, the happy place of childhood, of riding the Cyclone, sharing hot dogs and frog’s legs at Nathans, walking off teenage angst on the boardwalk. What began as casual iPhone photos on the beach turned into a renewed passion for shooting, and I spent the winter capturing the Polar Bears on land and sea (see my photo montage on display at Tom’s on the boardwalk), and all the genuine eccentrics in Coney island’s unique confluence of urban life and the sea. What kept me away so long? It’s great to be home in a place where I am not the wildest person in the room.”


Self-portrait of the photographer.


I based a climactic scene in my novel on the Coney Island Mardi Gras Parade (1903 to 1954.) This photo: 1943, NY Daily News.



Posted in: Changing Gallery


  1. Lindale zises says:

    Great work!
    What inspiring creative, happy, fun. It makes all other parades pale in content, in emotional unity in pure joy. Sorry I missed the parade this year so thanks for the pics. Even though you left out the car. They were part of the parade or
    Weren’t they?
    You have lived a truly adventurous life. I envy you.

  2. Saj Crone says:

    Thanks for these photos. The Mermaid Parade reminds me so much of the Fantasy Fest in Key West, during October. Same free spirit, and zany creativity.

    • Sheila says:

      I know, it must have been great! I wasn’t actually there (other commitments) but we’ll try to make it next year.

  3. Wonderful pictures!

  4. Peggy says:

    Thank you for sharing the imaginative creativity in this parade. Great!

  5. Marilyn J. says:

    Wow! I loved this! Amazing woman. I’d love to know what happened in between her photo years. The costumes are something else – freedom and joy!

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