For a decade, Ken Schles watched the passing of time from his Lower East Side neighborhood. His camera fixed the instances of his observations, and these moments became the foundation of his "invisible city." Friends and architecture come under the scrutiny of his lens and, when sorted and viewed in the pages of this book, a remarkable achievement of personal vision emerges. Twenty-five years later, Invisible City still has the ability to transfix the viewer. A penetrating and intimate portrayal of a world few had entrance to--or means of egress from--Invisible City stands alongside Brassai's Paris de Nuit and van der Elsken's Love On The Left Bank as one of the twentieth century's great depictions of nocturnal bohemian experience. Documenting his life in New York City's East Village during its heyday in the tumultuous 1980s, Schles captured its look and attitude in delirious and dark honesty. Long out of print, this "missing link" in the history of the photographic book is now once again made available. Using scans from the original negatives and Steidl's five-plate technique to bring out nuance and detail never seen before, this new edition transcends the original of this underground cult classic.
A TIME magazine photobook of the year (2014) "The reissue of Invisible City is rich in texture and is every bit as intoxicating as that first visit to Schles' East Village in New York City in the eighties." Invisible City by Ken Schles, published by Steidl, selected by Michelle Molloy, International Photo Editor, TIME.
A New York Times notable book of the Year (1st edition, 1988)
Invisible City is cited in volume III of the seminal Parr/Badger The Photobook: A History, listed in 802 Photo Books from the M + M Auer Collection, a compendium of books important to the history of photography and noted by two experts in 10x10 American Photobooks, a publication that presents significant American artists' photobooks from the last 25 years.
"Perhaps one of the greatest portrayals of nocturnal urban life of the 20th Century - certainly keeping equal company with Brassai's classic Paris de Nuit." Eric Miles, Photo-Eye.
"hellishly brilliant." Vince Aletti, The New Yorker.
Both books are of enormous force. So intimate and direct, that it sometimes pains the eyes. They are marked by a lust for life out of control. (Freddie Langer Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)
So intimate and direct, that it sometimes pains the eyes. They are marked by a lust for life out of control. (Freddie Langer Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)
Pictures like this speak to the gut. They isolate time from itself. Bottom Line: A re-issued classic, straight outta the NYC 80’s. (Jonathan Blaustein A Photo Editor)
Invisible City has a reputation as a dark book, but that reputation seems undeserved, especially when paired with the new book. Instead, one is struck with moments of perseverance and levity, of people celebrating, drinking, or making love, despite their circumstances or living condition. The darkness hovers along the edges and occasionally creeps in, but is largely kept at bay. (Adam Bell The Brooklyn Rail)
Photographically, both book provide copious amounts of photographic references. In City, for example, there is a photograph of a kid pointing a gun at you, clearly echoing William Klein’s New York book. With their bleak and harsh black-and-white treatments, occasionally using considerable blur, the books also echo Japanese photography from around the Provoke era. Of course, many of these references have since been picked up by a younger generation of artists. (Jörg M Colberg cphmag.com)
“I was looking at this idea of what does the image mean, not only photographic images but also images we hold within ourselves about he world we have around us,” he said. “I felt my world was falling apart. I started thinking what I consider my world is and it's really a series of images: as a father, as an American, as a New Yorker, these things they’re all images.”
Those thoughts were also present when Schles was initially working on Invisible City, looking for a way to document his experience in New York that differed from those of both his father, a New York native, and also countless other artists who had created work that reflected their own experiences living there. (David Rosenberg Slate)
What emerged was a bounty of startling black-and-white images, both bleak and ravishing, that were so starkly truthful about that time and place that their publication as Invisible City in 1988 would become a landmark cult title, unavailable for over two decades. Originally published by legendary Twelvetrees Press in Pasadena, the book was printed on a photogravure press, now virtually extinct. If ever there were a book that could not be anything other than black and white, this was it. The riveting tonalities are the reality of Schles’s naked netherworld. His camera managed to memorialize a now-mythic era of New York history that for him at the time was merely “the reality out my front door.” (Michael Kurcfeld Los Angeles Review of Books)
Coffee Table Curator: Top January releases. (Devon Ivie Interview)
Ken Schles’ Invisible City is an extraordinary production, printed in five inks using a special screen to mimic as closely as possible the original photogravure. An important book made available again for a new generation of photographers (and for those of us who were a bit distracted at the time). (Cian Cuatro Cuerpos)
Also at the Times, a selection of photos from Ken Schles, who spent the mid 1980s living in an abandoned building in the East Village, documenting the neighborhood’s goings on with his camera. The work, which resulted in two books, 1988’s Invisible City and 2014’s Nightwalk, expresses both “darkness” and “excitement,” depending on your perspective. (Chris Pomorski New York Observer)
Ken Schles’ strong renderings of ’80s New York photography appear to be cinematic – and can be compared to Martin Scorsese’s early films such as Who’s That Knocking at My Door, Mean Streets, and Taxi Driver. Schles’ newly reissued Invisible City straightforwardly captured the ecstasy and despair which his beloved city screamed of. (Miwa Susuda Photo Book Magazine)
Night Walk is an essential companion to the new, long-awaited reprint of Schles' gritty 1988 classic Invisible City. A document of life on Manhattan's Lower East Side as it went through the death throes of being a dirty, lawless pocket of the city, Invisible City and Night Walk evokes a sense of danger and fun in roaming through this veritable no man's land. The grainy black-and-white photos make you feel like you're falling through a dream. (Mark Murrmann Mother Jones)
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