Self-taught photographer Michael Sean Edwards has been an East Village staple for more than three decades, since moving to the once-gritty neighborhood from Toronto in 1977. Using “slow” film called Ektachrome Type B, Edwards documented neighborhood life with a cinematic touch and eye for detail: trash-can sculpture, a recurring graffiti tag, a doll on a street sign, the corner coffee shop. He only recently uploaded the resulting photographic prints to Flickr, in a photoset that’s been making the Internet rounds. We spoke with Edwards to get the background on a selection of his most compelling shots from 1978 to 1985.
Some technical notes from Michael Sean Edwards:
“The film I used was Ektachrome Type B, which is balanced for artificial light, not daylight. I used an 85B filter to correct the color balance. It was a common thing in movie shooting in those days and I was a film editor for a living and had learned most of what I knew in film production. For stills it was not a common way of doing things at all, because there were lots of daylight reversal films available. I really liked the look of the Type B film though, and it was a very slow, fine-grained emulsion. I think I got better colors that way, because the Type B emulsion is less tolerant of color temp differences, and so I put up with the lack of speed.
These rolls of film were the only color films I ever developed myself. It was a pain in the ass: about six different baths and very precise temperature control. They really turned out well. I did them in my kitchen on 7th Street.
The pictures were all taken with a Nikkormat FTN camera and a 28mm f2.8 Nikkor lens. A few of them were taken with a 135 mm lens (Guajana, for instance).”
For more from Edwards’s East Village photo archive, visit his Flickr page.