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Chronicling the Dark, Seedy Underbelly of 1980s New York

Brooklyn-born photographer Ken Schles moved to Alphabet City in 1983, and his apartment was pretty dark—literally. His landlord insisted on boarded-up windows because "junkies could steal the gates with a crowbar." So Schler did what any shutterbug would do: set up a darkroom in the light-starved space. The, er, atmospheric environment also included a heroin addict who lived downstairs and welcomed dealers and users to shoot up on the premises, and the carbon monoxide-spewing boiler that the city had to shut down. With such gripping, gritty scenes literally in his backyard, Schles had no choice but to capture them. Burning tenements; nighttime revelry and debauchery; vacant lots.

More photos ahead on Curbed NY. >>