By now, the hyper-gentrification of the Lower East Side is old hat but every so often, images or stories come along that stop us in our tracks and remind us of what the neighborhood used to be. Kill City, photographer Ash Thayer's new book featuring images of the LES squat scene between 1992-2000, is one such example. The collection of images document Thayer's life as a squatter during her time living in the city and attending art school and give us a glimpse into a famously guarded, insular community. In her intro, Thayer describes her time living in both See Skwat (C-Squat) and Fifth Street Squat, shooting pictures of her fellow residents, working construction jobs and finding ways to make abandoned buildings with no electricity or running water habitable. It's an arresting collection of memories and images and worth checking out here and in full when the book comes out this month via powerHouse. Take a look, below.
"I loved the androgynous look that women rocked in the late 80s and 90s. There was an unspoken agreement with other women in the scene to dissent from mainstream culture’s definitions of what was beautiful or feminine. Our character and actions defined us, not how we looked. This was Jen. She was strong and beautiful, with no makeup, wearing a concert t-shirt, or a work uniform and boots."
Toby on a Demolition Day, Fifth Street Squat, 1994
"Most squatters would work the equivalent of full-time jobs on building their apartments, and preparing them for winter survival. Women and men worked side by side, equally. We would have group “work days” for the building residents, when we had big projects like repairing the roof,
installing stairs and floor foundations, and running electricity."