Ken Schles

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Ken Schles (born 1960) is an American photographer based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York.[1][2] A New York Foundation for the Arts fellow, Schles has published five monographs over 25 years.[3] In 2014, both The New York Times and Time named Invisible City among the notable photobooks of that year.[4][5]

Schles' work is held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Museo D'Arte Contemporanea, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and others.[3]


Schles earned his BFA from Cooper Union in 1982, where he studied with Len Jenshel, William Gedney and Larry Fink. After continuing his studies with Lisette Model at the New School for Social Research and participating in a study group run by Martha Rosler, he worked as a printer for a number of Magnum Photos photographers, including Gilles Peress, Elliot Erwitt and Burt Glinn.[6] In addition, since 1992, Schles has artistically contributed[clarification needed] to over a hundred albums, CDs, and videos.[7]

Schles is currently a foreign correspondent for Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, a photography museum located at the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


  • Invisible City. Twelvetrees Press, 1988. Schles began producing this book in 1983, when he lived in a run-down apartment in the east village of New York City. City officials made the landlord turn off the boiler in the building because it was leaking carbon monoxide, the building had become a “shooting gallery” for heroin addicts. The neighborhood was in shambles and junkies were a constant threat. So, Schles’ landlord boarded the windows to prevent break-ins, this worked to Schles’ advantage, the boarded-up space provided Schles the perfect environment to create a dark room. From his created darkroom he developed the photos of his surroundings and the general life of 1980’s New York City.[8]
  • The Geometry of Innocence. Hatje Cantz, 2001. In The Geometry of Innocence, Schles’ focus is on the shifting of social structures and spaces that mark the urban landscape. The works in The Geometry of Innocence address the immediacy and relativity of meaning in the photographic image and how they shape societies' perception of the world around them. Schles's images include images from, Death Row, hospital rooms, playgrounds, militarized zones, city streets, and bars and clubs.[9]
  • A New History Of Photography: The World Outside And The Pictures In Our Heads. White Press, 2008. Schles uses this book to examine the influence and our relationship to the history of photography and of photo book making itself.[10]
  • Oculus. Noorderlicht, 2011. Schles’ monograph is an investigative textual photo book about the relationship between images, light, and their natural relationship to the mind's interpretation.[11]
  • Night Walk. Steidl, 2014. Night Walk is a greatly expanded reprint of Schles' Invisible City. Schles explores different versions of focus to tell a photographic-narrative of 1980's life in the Lower East Side of New York City.[12]


Schles' work is held in the following permanent public collections:


  1. ^ Rosenberg, David (March 1, 2015). "This New York City Neighborhood Was "Invisible" in the '80s". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  2. ^ Leland, John. "The East Village, in the 1980s and Looking Back", The New York Times, December 26, 2014. Accessed October 5, 2018. "Ken Schles, 54, spent the mid-1980s living and taking photographs in the East Village, and twice he edited his work into books — the first time when the photos were taken, and the second time more recently.... The resulting book, Night Walk (2014), is the retrospective glance of a father of two living in Fort Greene, in Brooklyn."
  3. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2014". 2014-11-28. Retrieved 2015-04-14.
  5. ^ "The East Village in the 1980s and Looking Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  6. ^ "Ken Schles". LensCulture. Retrieved 2015-04-14.
  7. ^ Ken Schles. "Ken Schles | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-04-14.
  8. ^ "'Invisible City / Night Walk, 1983-1989': Ken Schles documents NYC's Lower East Side in the 80's". 2015-01-27. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-19. Retrieved 2015-04-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Ken Schles – Library Committee Event Nov.30, 2010 | International Center of Photography Library". 2010-12-03. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  11. ^ "Published Pioneers | The Cooper Union". 2011-11-21. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  12. ^ Dafoe, Taylor (2015-04-02). "Invisible City and Night Walk by Ken Schles". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  13. ^ "Art Lending Service and Art Advisory Service Records1948-1996in The Museum of Modern Art Archives ArtLending". Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  14. ^ "Search | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^ [3]
  17. ^ "Search | The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston". Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  18. ^ "Brookmuse | Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives". 1992-11-06. Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  19. ^ "Search Collection Results | The Art Institute of Chicago". Retrieved 2016-10-28.
  20. ^ [4][dead link]
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-18. Retrieved 2015-04-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-13. Retrieved 2015-04-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

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