Left: Danny Lyon, American, born 1942, printed by Chuck Kelton: Dropping a wall, 1967, printed 2007. Gelatin silver print, 31 x 20.8 cm. Gift of M. Robin Krasny, Class of 1973 (2009-150.60) © 1967, Danny Lyon / Magnum / Photo by Bruce M. White
Right: Lewis W. Hine, American, 1874–1940: Laying a Great Beam on the Empire State Building, 1930. Gelatin silver print, 34.3 x 24.6 cm. Anonymous gift (x1973-41). Photo by Bruce M. White
In The Destruction of Lower Manhattan, Lyon tells a story in which both buildings and people are protagonists. For a photographer, deriving drama from both the built and the human means taking a creative approach to scale, and—sometimes—rediscovering methods used by others.
Lyon’s image of wreckers knocking over a wall remarkably echoes Lewis W. Hine’s study of steelworkers assembling the girders of the Empire State Building thirty-seven years earlier. Their pictures tell opposite (or, better, complementary) halves of the story of ground clearing and construction, but the artists share a progressive vision of labor as history.