Intimate Portraits of ’90s New York City Squatters

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During her time as an art student in 1992, Ash Thayer was kicked out of her Brooklyn apartment and found herself living in the See Skwat on New York City’s Lower East Side. Thayer photographed her fellow squatters as they lived and worked to make the community more habitable, learning about demo, electrical work, and more in order to build a home. The images are now part of the fascinating book Kill City: Lower East Side Squatters 1992-2000, the “true untold story of New York’s legendary LES squatters.” A press release from publisher powerHouse Books explains:

New York City in the ‘90s saw the streets of the Lower East Side overrun with derelict buildings, junkies huddled in dark corners, and dealers packing guns. People in desperate need of housing, worn down from waiting for years in line on the low-income housing lists, had been moving in and fixing up city-abandoned buildings since the mid-80s in the LES.

Thayer’s photos, which we first spotted on Co.Design, help to dismantle some of the misconceptions about squatters by revealing intimate portraits of friendship and community.

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Meggin on Fire Escape, Fifth Street Squat, 1995

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Jason, Fifth Street Squat, 1994

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Beer Olympics I, Williamsburg, 1994

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Girl Reading in Doorway of Serenity House, 1997

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Jen (on Bed), Fifth Street Squat, 1995

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Toby on a Demolition Day, Fifth Street Squat, 1994

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Famous, Pregnant and Building Windows, Seventh Street Squat, 1994

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Ryan on Couch (Toy), Fifth Street Squat, 1995

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Caroline Looking Out of Her Window, Serenity House, 1996

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Mr. Potato Head Still Life, Fifth Street Squat, 1994

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Meggin and Jill Dancing, Fifth Street Squat, 1996

From Kill City by Ash Thayer, published by powerHouse Books. Maria and Violin in Serenity House Stairwell, 1997