Twenty-five years after the printing of his seminal 1988 book, Invisible City, Ken Schles revisits his archive and fashions a narrative of lost youth: a delirious, peripatetic walk in the evening air of an irretrievable downtown New York as he saw and experienced it. Night Walk is a substantive and intimate chronicle of New York's last pre-Internet bohemian outpost, a stream of consciousness portrayal that peels back layers of petulance and squalor to find the frisson and striving of a life lived amongst the rubble.
Here, Schles embodies the flâneur as Sontag defined it, as a "connoisseur of
cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous
We see in Night Walk a new and revelatory Ulysses for the 21st century: a searching tale of wonder and
life and love in the dying hulk of a ruined American city.
Texts by Ken Schles and T.S. Eliot. Book design by Ken Schles. Cover design by Sarah Winter. Published by Steidl. 160 pages, 9.1 x 6.8 in. / 23,2 x 17,3 cm, 106 photographs, quadratone, clothbound hardcover with dust jacket. ISBN 978-3-86930-692-6
Note: Copies of Invisible City and Night Walk sold on this site are from the 1st Steidl edition printed in 2014 (now out of print). The nominally higher sales price reflects this.
☛ Limited edition box set of Invisible City and Night Walk with hand pulled photogravures
More on this project:
Daylight multimedia project
Los Angeles Review of Books (article and video)
New York Times (profile and portfolio)
New York Times Sunday Review
New York Times (page 2 international editon)
Wall Street Journal
The Brooklyn Rail
L'Oeil de la Photographie
As An Installation:
5/5★ "Poetic and direct. Raw and dark. A brilliant portrait of a city in decline and the people living in it." — Rianne van Dijck, NRC Handelsblad (The Netherlands) 2015-04-16
"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." — Freddy Langer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) 2015-05-28
"The images are imbued with the same fury as those in Invisible City, but here they serve life and love. Invisible City glowed with the cinders of the East Village, while the flames in Night Walk illuminate the streets or the tops of birthday cakes. The atmosphere is intact, but the restless night walk ends with a long, romantic scene in Schles’s brick apartment. From his window, we see the metal fire escapes that still today trace oblique lines across the Village’s buildings. "Human beings exist in a word of fantasy," Schles told the Los Angeles Review of Books. "We trust [photographs] more than we trust memory because memory is ephemeral." Invisible City mourned a vanished city. Night Walk rebuilt it." (Laurence Cornet L'Oeil de la Photographie)
Photo-Eye Best Book "If you love Ken Schles book Invisible City you will be excitied about the follow up. Nearly 30 years after Invisible City. New York City alive in the eighties. East village. Shot by one of Americas most underrated photographers. Printing by Steidl these days is amazing and super close to good old Gravure printing. Finally published!" (Markus Schaden Photo-Eye Blog)
"quintessential New York pictures ...crackle with youthful electricity." "Schles’ two photobooks are remarkably distinct... Invisible City is tightly edited, an expressive, non-linear arrangement of impressions and emotions; Night Walk is much more sprawling, following the loose arc of a single aggregate night, stringing us out from party to party and club to club until we reach the lazy warm embrace of the morning." (Loring Knoblauch, Collector Daily 2015-02-24)
"[Night] Walk sings... The reality is that as we age, we get a little wiser... [Night] Walk feels expansive in ways that [Invisible] City feels restrictive... [Night] Walk both echoes the times and circumstances under which the photographs were made, but also our times and circumstances, the things we do (or don't do), the things we share (and don't share). Seen that way, Night Walk does what it needs to be doing, given our cities' lives: it references the past as much as the present and the future." (JM Colberg, Conscientious Photo Magazine 2015-03-23)
"URBAN LEDGEND Ken Schles portrays New York’s gritty Lower East Side in the 1980s in "Invisible City/Night Walk, 1983-1989" at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York, Jan. 29 to March 14, an exhibition of 40 of his black-and-white photographs that coincides with the publication of Night Walk (Steidl), a companion to his underground cult classic Invisible City, 1988. Mr. Schles lived among the boarded-up buildings and heroin addicts during that decade, turning his blighted apartment into a darkroom to process photographs of a city on the edge. " (The Editors International New York Times)
"In 1983, Ken Schles moved into an apartment on Avenue B in the East Village. His windows were boarded up because his landlord said that junkies could steal the gates with a crowbar. This worked to Schles’s advantage -- he set up a darkroom. Life moved at a tumultuous pace. Downstairs, a woman with three kids was a heroin addict and dealers used her apartment as a shooting gallery. The city shut down the boiler in the building, which was spewing carbon monoxide. With scenes like this playing out daily right outside his doorstep, Schles found gripping subject matter in and around the neighborhood. ...a provocative narrative of lost youth and a private view of an irretrievable downtown New York as Schles saw and experienced it. " (The Editors Yahoo! News)
Along with Invisible City nominated for the 2016 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize
A TIME magazine photobook of the year: "Ken Schles' Invisible City captured the zeitgeist of New York just as Weegee and Klein did before him. His newest book, Night Walk, culled from work in his archive, transports us along the same streets during the same bygone era as Invisible City, but brings us to a new visceral destination. Night Walk, and a newly issued reprint of Invisible City — both capture the sensuous photo-gravure of the original Invisible City and are published by Steidl." — Jason Eskenazi for TIME magazine.
A Mother Jones Photobook of the year: "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 ...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, Photo Director, Mother Jones
Vogue Italia "A beguiling love letter to the fabled East Village in New York City. Revelatory in its sense of moment, the work is a journey into memory and a past replete with celebration and loneliness. [Invisible City] Together with Night Walk, are must books for those interested in New York but more, to anyone interested in the edge of life." — James Wellford Photobooks That Defined 2014
"Whether you have lived in New York your entire life, or have visited periodically you know that the city changes at light-speed, each new persona covering the last. Twenty five years ago, photographer Ken Schles published Invisible City a diminutive, landmark monograph which recorded a gritty, jittery black and white version of New York, populated by its denizens, in what at times looks like a war zone. The city was struggling, darker; in a kind of perpetual night. Happiness seemed fleeting, and was embraced, wherever and whenever it was found. Try as we might to polish New York’s image these days as a safe, shiny, world destination Ken’s vision is indelibly a part of the city as well, a part of who we were, who we are.
Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the publication, Ken is collaborating with Steidl Publishers to beautifully re-print Invisible City, along with a new monograph from the same time period, Night Walk Together, they represent a powerful portrait of a city we rarely see or talk about anymore dangerous, smoldering, sexual... alive." (The Editors Spirit & Flesh)
"Like his contemporary Nan Goldin, Schles’s snapshot aesthetic is intensely personal and comes from a common photographic desire to document, record, and preserve one’s life and surroundings. Lovers and friends are regular characters, but we’re also given a broader perspective into a small segment of New York City’s fringes. Casual portraits are interspersed with images of garbage-strewn streets or found details, like an abandoned baby carriage in an empty hallway. Throughout his images, Schles makes ample use of blur and grain, as well as a variety of different light sources, from a bright flash to a single light bulb, to illuminate his subjects. At times the scenes are shocking - like the burning buildings or half-naked addicts strung out on a filthy toilet but other times they are tender, as with the images of a man stepping from a tenement bath or the young couple watching distant fireworks from their roof." (Adam Bell The Brooklyn Rail)