Destruction For Christmas

by Derrick Bostrom


The big holiday has finally come and gone, and with it a very small but seemingly ever larger and larger piece of my life -- about the same size piece it takes every year: about a day's worth.

I like presents though. The first one I plowed into was something I added casually to my Amazon wish list quite a while ago, mostly as a reminder to myself. By the time someone actually bought it for me, I had forgotten all about it (I still can't remember where I read about it).

The Destruction of Lower Manhattan is a book of photographs first published in 1969, documenting the demolition of some sixty acres of downtown New York City. To make room for such ephemera as the World Trade Center, whole neighborhoods of magnificent buildings from the mid-1800s were taken down brick by brick.

Inspired by a need for isolation and fueled by psychedelics, "outlaw" photographer Danny Lyon shot the images that make up the book over a period of six months in 1966 or 1967 (he apparently no longer remembers which). They moved me to such fits of poignancy as to nearly wash away completely the bad taste of the holidays (from which I myself am inspired by a need for isolation). And the twinges are twin, both from my love of condemned architechture and from reminiscences of my own youth (when nothing went together quite so well as a dose of acid and an abandoned buidling.)

Danny Lyon shares some of his work on his Web site, Bleak Beauty, which also also offers an overview of his fascinating career, of which "Destruction" plays a small, even peripheral part.