By Katy Cowan
When New York-based photographer Christine Osinski moved to Staten Island in the early 1980s, she began to document the Big Apple’s ‘forgotten borough’ – taking candid portraits of the people living there.
Interestingly, she had no intention of showing the ensuing photographs publicly. In fact, they remained hidden away for nearly thirty years, until she recently decided to develop the film and reveal Summer Days: Staten Island – a series that paints a fascinating portrait of Staten Island and its working class culture during the summers of 1983 and 1984.
With kids riding their bikes on wide, empty streets, families socialising on their front lawns, and teenagers leaning casually against cars in the latest fashions – Staten Island had a reputation for being provincial compared to the rest of the city and still does today. In the early eighties, Christine was looking for a new home with her husband after high rents forced them out of their Soho apartment in Manhattan. A therapist she was seeing at the time recommended that she look for a cheaper place on Staten Island. Christine said: “We used to take the ferry in the summer to cool off but never got off the ferry. Once we got off initially it felt like a time warp and it was hard to believe it was part of New York City. It seemed remote and had its own unique character – clearly a working class sensibility.”
It was a place Christine could relate to coming from the South Side of Chicago. She grew up in a house she describes as “similar to the one Michelle Obama says she’s from. It was a brick bungalow in a harsh muscular area with lots of factories.”
The move to Staten Island came a few years after studying for her Masters at Yale in 1974. It wasn’t until years later that she began photographing Staten Island to explore her new home. Using a large format 4×5 camera, Christine wandered the modest island and took candid portraits of complete strangers and the surrounding suburban architecture, revealing an unexpected, invisible landscape just minutes from the nearby thriving metropolis of Manhattan.
She explained: “The Island was a goldmine for pictures. Everything seemed interesting. Mostly I went out walking for long periods of time. When I began photographing the people were very small in the landscape, but eventually I moved closer and they became the primary focus of my photographs. There were a lot of people outside, people having block parties, at parades and kids hanging out. People were very curious and having the 4×5 camera on a tripod helped me. It was just nice being outside and meeting people. You just never knew what was going to happen. It was an adventure.”
If you love the style and nostalgia of this charming photo series, then you can discover more on Christine’s website at www.christineosinski.com. Or you can buy the accompanying book via Artbook.
Via Feature Shoot