cover image A Falling-Off Place: The Transformation of Lower Manhattan

A Falling-Off Place: The Transformation of Lower Manhattan

Barbara G. Mensch. Empire State, $39.95 (116p) ISBN 978-1-531-50439-7

In this striking collection, photographer Mensch (In the Shadow of Genius) traces three decades of change on Lower Manhattan’s eastern waterfront, paying particular attention to the Fulton Street Fish Market. Split into three sections (the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s), her images capture a moody, gritty version of New York City where fishmongers haul ice and fish and sell their catch in the wee hours. After 175 years in Lower Manhattan, the market relocated to the Bronx in 2005, and Mensch captured emotional moments from the final day at its original location. The most evocative change, though, is the disappearance of the twin towers, which loom in the background of several earlier photos like colossuses, and whose attack Mensch documents in several mesmerizing images, including one of the moment that the south tower was struck. The beautiful images, often rich in chiaroscuro rendered by streetlights illuminating rainy nights or misty mornings, are complemented by quotes from residents and workers who provide insight into life in Lower Manhattan prior to gentrification. Visually evocative and spare on text, the presentation makes clear Mensch’s affection for this corner of the city and the workers and “wiseguys” who made their livings there. It’s ideal for anyone nostalgic for the old New York. (Sept.)