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Kill City: Lower East Side Squatters 1992-2000 Hardcover – March 31, 2015

5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Anyone wondering about the end of bohemia can consult this book, which documents its last incarnation, at least in New York City. Few bohemians can ever have worked as hard as the squatters, who earned their homes and their lives; they were rewarded with forcible and violent eviction. Ash Thayer’s remarkable pictures chronicle a time, only two decades ago, that seems impossibly distant now.”
—Luc Sante, Author of Low Life

"Thayer's work here is a time capsule, a vision of a way things were, a city that once was. It reminds us that the DIY spirit is in the heart of this city. We must, against all pressures, show those who come after that there are other ways."
—Jesse Bransford, Chair, Department of Art and Art Professions at NYU 

"Captures a remarkable period in NYC’s recent history"
-The Guardian

"Thayer's own experience squatting in the Lower East Side is evident in every photo. Hers was a rarefied vantage, one where the lens of an outsider would never have been welcome. Kill City is a unique opportunity to experience New York City at a turning point, just before its last revolutionary vestiges faded away."
-The Daily Mail

"Unlike most journalists and photographers, who often time gave squatters 'bad press,' Ms. Thayer was able to document the movement and her friends through a lens of intimacy that has rarely been captured."
-New York Observer

"Thayer’s pictures document a poignant divide between then and now, depicting a New York that’s unimaginable today."
-Time Out New York

"The photographs, in both hazy color and black and white, are shot with celestial lighting in a direct, candid style"
-Fast Company

"every so often, images or stories come along that stop us in our tracks "
-Paper 

"fascinating"
-Flavorwire

As Seen In:
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About the Author

ASH THAYER is a photographer and multimedia visual artist based in Los Angeles. She received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts from The School of Visual Arts, and a Masters of Fine Art from Columbia University in New York. Thayer has exhibited her work at venues including The Lawrence Miller Gallery and The Proposition Gallery in New York; the Berlin Art Fair; Kean College in New Jersey; The Museum of the City of New York; and The Chicago Art Institute. Her work is held in several public art collections including the Saatchi Gallery in London, The Chicago Art Institute, and The Museum of the City of New York. She has taught as an adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University. She studied acting and directing at the Terry Schreiber Studio in New York, and has performed both on stage and in film.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: powerHouse Books (March 31, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576877345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576877340
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.8 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By B. Wolinsky on October 17, 2015
Ash Thayer’s Kill City is almost a sequel to Ken Schles’ Invisible City. While Schles’ 1988 photo essay portrayed an empty neighborhood, Thayer’s photos portray the flowers that bloomed where a tree had died. She lived in and photographed the See Squat on Avenue C and 9th Street, an area known as Alphabet City, one of several buildings in the area inhabited by squatters. The residents fought to stay in the buildings, going all the way to court to have their squatters’ rights made permanent. Some succeeded, others were evicted.

A little background on the author; Thayer came from Memphis Tennessee, didn’t get along with her southern peers, went to SVA, had no money for rent, and found the See Squat via word-of-mouth. The book has an intro by Reverend Fran Morales, where he tells us how the locals, themselves poor and marginalized, didn’t want the squatters there. Most of the squatters were young and white, while the “locals” were mostly Hispanic. Both groups, however, were really in the same dire circumstances, and if it weren’t a squat full of young whites, it would’ve been a squat full of junkies. Take your pick.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it documents the clothing styles of the time. Greens and browns predominate, lots of dark blue workman’s clothes can be seen too. The author points out that androgynous looks were popular among young people at the time, with Doc Martens being the norm for both genders. Perhaps it’s because the boots last a long time? Or maybe these kids came from rural towns where everyone worked in farms or industry? I also surmise that the 1990’s Alphabet City, not yet the “hipster” enclave it is now, wouldn’t have been a place to see colorful clothing, worn by socially competitive people.
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Please be prepared to recognize that this is not glamorous , staged or for profit . This book is a DIY extremely long process of dedication in more aspects than explainable . This book is a treasure of a life that is not easily accepted nor kindly adaptable . It is for the real , the raw , and the unbreakable. This book is laced with short stories of face to face squatters opening a sealed , bolted gateway with sensitive and limited access of which is protected by blood and sweat as the code of allowance . Absolutely true survivors... Never underestimate the determined Thank you Ash... xox TAZ
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This book, an important docu of history- is facinating. It was a time of youth and important lessons, and struggle for so many and a time where the neighborhood was raw. I love seeing Ash's tour with the book, caught her in 2 cities and was interested in the q and a as well as people's reactions to holding this book. It was like a yearbook in some cases. Made me smile.
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This book is GORGEOUS, start to finish. If you love New York street photography it's a must have. I buy a lot of photography and design books and rarely do they have this many pages of jaw dropping images (I'm going to say never?). It really feels museum quality. Someone familiar with the squatter movement will love this book, but those who aren't will appreciate it just as much--as both a fascinating piece of historical reference, and a beautiful work of art.
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Powerful images capture a moment in history that many won't believe happened in NYC not even 25 years ago. Opening the book was like opening a time capsule from my childhood, but it also tells a story of fighting for your rights and not conforming to the system. It will be featured on my coffee table for years to come.
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The world depicted in the pages of this book, seems so far away...though I was ( vaguely ) aware of it at the time...Now it seems hard to imagine. I could pour over the images in this book for hours at a time.
One of this things that I find compelling and stands out about these images is that Ms. Thayer manages to convey a sense of respect and camaraderie for/with the people who are her subjects in the book. This is touched on in the text. These could be photos of people on the way down. The images don't read that way. In the author's capable viewfinder we see people, making (and fighting for) their world in difficult, but relate-able circumstances. While I would think many of the subjects in the book found themselves in these pages while wrestling with their lives, I find the directness and trust and industriousness depicted here very inspiring.
The photos that make up this book are intelligent, sincere and (somewhat counter intuitively) beautiful.
There is text and some explanation as to how the squats worked, who some of the residents were and a few of their stories. I find myself wishing that there were more text and more written about the people, but all told, I feel lucky that this volume exists.
I am very glad the author had the good sense to take the pictures, and keep taking the pictures and recognize their worth later and generously share them with us.
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