6sqft’s series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Ash Thayer shares intimate punk portraits of Lower East Side squatters from the 1990s. The photos are part of her collection “KILL CITY,” which was recently compiled into a book and published under the same name.
These days it’s difficult to think of the Lower East Side as much more than a destination for bar hopping, rapidly rising rents, and general raucousness, but not that long ago the neighborhood was a place pulsating with community, character, and openness to all walks: including squatters. One such squatter who found solace in this once distinct downtown enclave was photographer Ash Thayer who came to the city in the early ’90s to enroll at the School of Visual Arts, but after a series of misfortunes (e.g. a shady landlord who stole her security deposit) found herself homeless.
Thayer, however, had always had an affinity with the counterculture community and it didn’t take long for the kids of NYC’s punk scene to lend her a hand. In 1992, she joined the See Skwat, one of several squats she’d ultimately spend eight years living in and documenting. Ahead, Thayer shares some of her emotional photography from her time at See Skwat, and she speaks to 6sqft about her experience living in what she describes as an “important piece of the unknown history of New York.”