“Photography is a tool to make signs of significance. It brings aspects of the world into sharper focus while it deepens their mysteries. Photography both obscures and reveals as it liberates and enslaves. ” – Ken Schles
Ken Schles is a photographer and writer, the author of five monographs based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York. He was born in 1960, he grew up in a turbulent era and has been engaged in the issues that have shaped his world. As a student at Cooper in the late 70s and early 80s, he helped revamp an ailing photography department. In the 1980s he documented his life in the underground art and club scene and lived in what became an abandoned tenement in the East Village. After organising his fellow tenants, he led the fight to prosecute his landlord resulting in the landlord’s imprisonment and the renovation of a twenty-four unit building.
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. Schles is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow.
The work he made at the time became material for two books, Invisible City (1988), which was named a New York Times notable book of the year upon publication and, when reissued in 2014, was named a TIME Magazine photobook of the year. Invisible City has appeared in four histories of the photobook, including Parr/Badger’s seminal The Photobook: A History (Phaidon, 2014) and the recently published New York in Photobooks (Editorial RM and Centro José Guerrero 2017). A second book, Night Walk (Steidl, 2014) was also named book of the year by TIME Magazine. Together the exhibited work was nominated for the 2016 Deutsche Börse Prize.
Schles’ photographs have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and has been collected by more than one hundred museum and library collections throughout the world.