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Ken Schles: Invisible City Hardcover – February 24, 2015

4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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.

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,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)

About the Author

Jorge Luis Borges(1899-1986), Argentine writer, poet and philosopher, is best known for his books"Ficciones"and"The Aleph."
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Steidl; First Edition edition (February 24, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3869306912
  • ISBN-13: 978-3869306919
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Wolinsky on September 5, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Originally published in 1988 by Twelvetrees Press, and now reissued by Steidl, these photographs capture the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the end of her life. When I say “end,” I mean that the buildings are vacant, the trees are bare ad stunted, the streets are empty, and the people look empty too. Schles captures them lying around in filthy apartments, hollow eyed, and depressed. One of them shows a woman on the toilet, crammed into a tiny bathroom, her dress hiked up to reveal her flabby legs. I remember the city in the Kotch-Dinkins-Giuliani days; most New Yorkers were averse to being photographed, and the subject here must’ve been pretty hopeless to let herself be compromised like this. Regardless, I was not turned on.

In another photo, the neighborhood comes out to celebrate the fireworks, everyone’s out dancing in the street. Other than that, there’s no sign of happiness in this book. Everyone’s just waiting for the place to die quickly so they can move on. Seen from a window on a hot summer day, weed-grown lots and empty tenements. I know it’s the summer because the tree have leaves and the sky is cloudless. But even the trees look sick. There are three cars on the street, their windows intact. Is it because nobody’s there to break them? Do the owners move the cars at night? One photo shows a bunch of tulips on a windowsill overlooking an alley. They say that when a tree des, a thousand flowers bloom.

Today, the Lower East Side has good things. Community gardens are well-maintained, streets are clean, kids can walk safely in the streets, and there are healthy things to do. Young people have moved in, and they proudly decorate their apartments. The neighborhood was once a dead tree, and it finally fell down. Flower bloomed in its wake.
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This book is what I had hoped Frank's "The Americans" would be. The book is perfectly laid out and the photos are all exceptionally composed and perfectly capture the tone of the "bad old days" of eighties New York. While not sexual or graphic like Araki's work, Schles' work is reminiscent in that it captures a gritty underside of the city through a combination of portraiture, landscape and street photography. While short, this book is brilliant.
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Ken Schles has a very unique style that is showcased wonderfully in 'Invisible City.' The photographs contained in this book are raw and gritty and you're able to truly sense the feeling of the time and place each of them were taken. A true, realistic and romantic view of the Lower East Side.
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Gritty ( grain ) night shots of a city ,its problems, its moods and its feel. Really makes you want to go out an shoot images at 3200 taking chances with shutter speeds ….good book.
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