Ken Schles

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Ken Schles (born 1960) is an American photographer based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York.[1][2] He has published five monographs over 25 years.[3] 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. After continuing his studies at the New School for Social Research, he worked as a printer for a number of Magnum Photos photographers.[4] Schles is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow.[3]

Schles began producing Invisible City (1988) 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 1980s New York City.[5] In 2014, both The New York Times and Time named Invisible City among the notable photobooks of that year.[6][7]

In The Geometry of Innocence (2001) 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.[8]

Schles uses his book A New History Of Photography: The World Outside And The Pictures In Our Heads (2008) to examine the influence and our relationship to the history of photography and of photo book making itself.[9]

Schles' monograph Oculus (2011) is an investigative textual photo book about the relationship between images, light, and their natural relationship to the mind's interpretation.[10]

Night Walk (2014) is a companion volume to Invisible City, with images from the same period. In it Schles explores different versions of focus to tell a photographic-narrative of 1980's life in the Lower East Side of New York City.[11]


  • Invisible City. Twelvetrees, 1988.[12]
  • The Geometry of Innocence. Hatje Cantz, 2001.
  • A New History Of Photography: The World Outside And The Pictures In Our Heads. White, 2008.
  • Oculus. Noorderlicht, 2011.
  • Night Walk. Steidl, 2014.[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. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  2. ^ Leland, John (December 26, 2014). "The East Village, in the 1980s and Looking Back". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Ken Schles". LensCulture. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  5. ^ "'Invisible City / Night Walk, 1983–1989': Ken Schles documents NYC's Lower East Side in the 80's". Yahoo! News. January 27, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  6. ^ "TIME Picks the Best Photobooks of 2014". Time. November 28, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
  7. ^ "The East Village in the 1980s and Looking Back". The New York Times. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  8. ^ "The Geometry of Innocence - ISTB". Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
  9. ^ "Ken Schles – Library Committee Event Nov.30, 2010 | International Center of Photography Library". December 3, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  10. ^ "Published Pioneers | The Cooper Union". November 21, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Dafoe, Taylor (April 2, 2015). "Invisible City and Night Walk by Ken Schles". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Colberg, Jörg. "Ken Schles: Invisible City/Night Walk". Conscientious Photography Magazine. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  13. ^ "Art Lending Service and Art Advisory Service Records1948-1996in The Museum of Modern Art Archives ArtLending". Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  14. ^ "Search | The Metropolitan Museum of Art". Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  15. ^ [2][dead link]
  16. ^ "Search | LACMA". Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2022.
  17. ^ "Search | The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston". Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  18. ^ "Brookmuse | Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives". November 6, 1992. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  19. ^ "Search Collection Results | The Art Institute of Chicago". The Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved October 28, 2016.
  20. ^ [3][dead link]
  21. ^ "The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) | Exhibitions + Events | Past Exhibitions + Events". Archived from the original on April 18, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
  22. ^ "MFAH | Collections | the Manfred Heiting Collection". Archived from the original on April 13, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015.

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