Lautlos durch die Nacht (Silent Through the Night) by Freddie Langer
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) 28 May 2015

"Both books are of enormous force. So intimate and direct, that it sometimes pains the eyes."
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Silent through the Night

When the East village was home of junkies, homeless people and punk artists, among them lived the photographer Ken Schles.

By Freddy Langer (Bing translation)

Ken Schles, believed it was accident that brought him to photography and to the art school The Cooper Union, which, more specifically, sat near the Bowery, in the slums of New York. He had received a scholarship, and he was suddenly in the center of so much: in the East Village of the late seventies and early eighties. Drug dealers fought; there were shootings on the streets; houses were occupied by homeless people; it was where homosexuals and transvestites met; and property owners, receiving no more rent, summarily lit their homes to collect insurance premiums. A house always burned somewhere, remembers Schles. Always, someone, somewhere died of AIDS. Schles nailed boards to his window for fear of collapsing junkies. And kept a baseball bat handy behind the front door. The police would arc wide around the neighborhood with their patrol cars.

But this was also the breeding ground for art. For a subculture in the punk her new music and with the possibilities of graffiti found their new image solutions. Allen Ginsberg lived here and read his poems at night. Off-Off Broadway plays were staged in basements, bathrooms, small galleries, which attracted soon rich collectors, opened, and in the Club CBGB the careers of many bands began, who'd become world famous: Blondie, The Talking Heads and Patti Smith.

Ken Schles studied photography, and nothing was more natural than to document its own environment. It was not an artistic project. First of all, at least not. It was something like a self analysis, a location in a double sense. But his personal diary gradually became the Chronicle of a movement of that was as much attraction as danger. In the camera may have been both shield and strike him. Ultimately, says Ken Schles, were all friends who can be seen on the images. And what he showed, was less a conscious of or even zelebrierter lifestyle than just the daily life in the East Village: raw, rough, completely elementary. As the established scene for the area began to be interested in and the word gentrification did the rounds, a chapter in city history approached its end. Quickly out of print and now hard-to-get, began to sort the photos he made under primitive-conditions in his kitchen - enlarging grainy, blurry, black prints - and published in the book "Invisible City", which instantly became a cult book. Ken Schles was not irrelevant to the mystification that he contributed to.

When the Steidl reprint appeared more than a quarter of a century later, it was supplemented by a second volume: "Night Walk." Schles has arranged shots from the same era into an imaginary, nocturnal ramble through the scene. 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. A contagious lust? Rather not: "Drowned in Sorrow" is the headline of the village voice on Ken Schles' last image: drowning in grief.

"Invisible city" by Ken Schles. Steidl Verlag, Göttingen 2015 80 pages, numerous black and white photographs. Bound, 34 euros.

"Night Walk" by Ken Schles. Steidl Verlag, Göttingen 2015 160 pages, numerous black and white photographs. Bound, 38 euro.

An exhibition of the pictures can be seen at the Noorderlicht Photo Gallery in Groningen, The Netherlands until June 7 [edit: exhibition extended to June 21st].

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