Ken Schles’s Invisible City

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Ken Schles’s Invisible City

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The photographer’s documentation of lower Manhattan during the ’80s paints not only a portrait of grit and decay but the close-knit sense of community and restless, uncut spirit of the time.

Ken Schles moved to the East Village in the late ’70s and picked up a camera shortly after. He began chronicling his neighborhood, his close coterie of friends, and the places they went to hang out, smoke cigarettes, and just be. In doing so, Schles captured not only the bleak and deteriorating physical landscape of lower Manhattan but the unvarnished, free-spirited atmosphere of the time, much of which can be seen in his monographs Invisible City and Nite Walk. We recently caught up with the photographer to reflect on downtown New York in the ’80s, the motivation behind his work, the New York bookstores to check out, and more.   

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