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Long Island City artist releases photo book capturing the evolution of the neighborhood

Photos by Kris Graves

Photographer Kris Graves has been capturing the transformation of Long Island City through his lens for more than a decade.

Graves, who was born in Jamaica, said he remembers coming to the neighborhood as a child when his family would take trips to the city. They would take the E train from Court Square and Long Island City piqued his interest, but he didn’t get to explore until after graduating college.

“I was always interested in the neighborhood, but I never spent a lot of time there,” he said. “As soon as I got out of school I started biking around Queens and I just took pictures along the way.”

Though Graves has lived in other parts of Queens, including Astoria and Woodside, he has called Long Island City home for the last eight years.

He has witnessed the dramatic changes that have turned the the mostly industrial landscape into one featuring dozens of high-rises, and he’s been able to document this change.

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Now, he’s compiling these photos into a book series called “LOST.” In addition to the Long Island City book, Graves has invited nine other photographers living in cities around the world to document the landscapes they live in.

“I’ve seen an old building stand and then it being demolished and then a new building in its place the full gentrification of LIC for the most part,” he said. “Some pictures that are just gravel are now 60-story residential towers.”

Each book will be 48 pages and the cities included are Beijing, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Kolkata, Manhattan, Omaha, San Francisco and Seattle.

He titled the series “LOST” because he “realized that even if you’re from a place, the photographers that photograph the city streets always feel kind of lost in the place, trying to find something new.”

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The Long Island City book also features portraits in addition to cityscapes. The beloved 5Pointz building is included, as well as before-and-after photos of construction sites that make way to large towers.

Though the book is not completely chronological, the neighborhood “will go from looking like a dead neighborhood to a very constructed glass neighborhood.”

Each book will be published by Kris Graves Projects, Graves’ publishing company that he runs out of his house. He started it about four years ago and aims to publish photography books by artists that he admires.

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He said the project was surprising because each book is completely different. Lois Conner, the Beijing-based photographer, submitted long black-and-white photos to showcase her city. Zora J Murff, who is based in Omaha, took portraits of black people to present her city to the world.

In Berlin, photographer Andreas Gehrke took photographs of buildings that are no longer standing.

“None of the books are similar in any way,” he said. “When I said, ‘Photograph the city,’ I imagined a lot of landscapes of the city. But everybody took that in their own way. There are a lot of interiors, very private portraits.”

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The publishing company is a one-man show. Graves taught himself how to publish a book and hires freelance editors and designers to help him with the process.

The books, which cost $28 each or $250 for the 10-book bundle, are available for pre-order on krisgraves.com. There will be a launch party for the project at the 57th Street Pier on April 4.

“I love making these books and I have put money [second] and I’ll probably always be that way,” he said.

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