Christine Osinski: Summer Days: Staten Island
Several years ago, I met Christine Osinski at PhotoNOLA where I had the opportunity to enjoy her stellar silver gelatin prints during the portfolio walk and fall in love with her project, Summer Days Staten Island. Though the work is 35 years old, created in the 1980’s, it still feels fresh and interesting. Her black and white 4 x 5 capture of an often overlooked New York Borough shares intimate portraits focusing on a working class neighborhood that seemed very far away from the chaos of Manhattan.
Summer Days Staten Island was recently published by Damiani. Christine’s work will appear in a host of exhibitions starting in March at The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. in June at The Arsenal Gallery at Central Park, NYC and in July at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY.
Christine Osinski’s work has been included in recent exhibitions at The Portland Art Museum, Oregon; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Art Gallery of Western Australia; The New York Public Library; The Museum of the City of New York; Alice Austen House Museum and Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York City.
In 2005, Osinski became a Guggenheim Fellow, and in 2015 she received a generous grant from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Her work has also received support from The New York State Council on the Arts, The Graham Foundation, Connecticut Council on the Arts and Lightwork among other foundations.
Her photographs can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, NYC; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; La Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; The Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University; The Museum of the City of New York; The New York Public Library and in numerous other collections. Photographs and reviews of her work have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Art On Paper, New York Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine, Art New England as well as in numerous books and periodicals.
Osinski received a BFA degree from The Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University.
Summer Days Staten Island
In the early 1980s, I moved to the West Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, New York. Staten Island was another planet from Manhattan, where I lived previously, but a planet with which I was familiar having grown up in a working class neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Staten Island was often referred to as the “forgotten borough” and it seemed in keeping with my ongoing appreciation for people who largely go unnoticed and for vernacular architecture.
I used mostly a 4×5 camera and later in the project I also began to use a twin lens reflex camera. Every time walked outside with the camera I felt a sense of adventure. I never knew what I would find but it quickly became apparent to me that I appreciated the familiar as being very exotic. The things close to me were at once familiar yet equally strange. There is an oddness to the ordinary.
My method of working as a photographer has always involved not drawing attention to myself—to articulate my subjects as well as I could but to leave myself and my opinions out of the pictures.
As I walked around Staten Island carrying a large camera which drew people’s interest, I positioned myself as an itinerant photographer wishing to record life as I found it.
The camera became a transitional object between my subjects and myself—a conversation piece—a way to negotiate picture taking. People seemed willing to have their pictures taken by me using this large camera. I believe that these photos comprise an interesting document not only of Staten Island, but of working class American culture in the late twentieth century.
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