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Published in 1991, Low Life became a bestseller and stands as a game-changer of historical writing. Within its pages, Sante delves deep into the crime-and-vice-ridden cracks and gutters of Manhattan's paved-over past, vividly conjuring the rough lives of the forgotten and the scenes that swirled around them through text that is poetic, richly detailed, and impossible to not be swept up by. It is, simply, an essential read for anyone who's ever lived in New York, or even visited the city. The success of Low Life led to 1992's Evidence, a compendium of the haunting turn-of-the-century crime photos unearthed during its making.
Teaching positions at Columbia's MFA program and the New School followed, and 1998 brought The Factory of Facts and O.K. You Mugs: Writers on Movie Actors (coedited with his ex-wife, Melissa Holbrook Pierson). The anthology Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces and Novels in Three Lines, a translation of writings by French anarchist and art critic Felix Feneon, appeared in 2007, and in 2015 came The Other Paris, an epic excavation of the titular city's storied recesses akin to Low Life's archaeology of New York. Sante's photo-oriented efforts include Walker Evans (1999); No Smoking (2004); Folk Photography and Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography (both 2009); and Annie Liebovitz: The Early Years, 1970-1983 (2018). The recipient of a 1992-1993 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 1997 Literature Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 1998 Grammy for his essay in the reissued Anthology of American Folk Music, he contributed to last year's Beastie Boys Book and the documentary Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Given his affinity for the previous souls encased in the eaves of the structures he's dwelled in, what does he hope the residents of his rambling 1929 wood-frame house in Midtown Kingston find in his absence?
"Well, I hope there is a world 100 years in the future, and that Kingston keeps it quiet pace and doesn't grow too fast," Sante offers. "And I hope the wiring in here's still good and the plumbing still works."
Through a Different Lens is on view at the Museum of the City of New York through January 6.Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kurbick Photographs is available now from Taschen Books.
Stanley Kubrick Photographs: Through a Different Lens