The title to Bruce Gilden’s book A Beautiful Catastrophe is taken from a statement made by Le Corbusier about New York City, in which he called the metropolis “a beautiful catastrophe”.
Gilden grew up in Brooklyn, making him no stranger to the city’s multi-faceted nature. His photographs are of the street poet variety with his images laid out in a stream-of-consciousness-type manner. Though the sequencing follows no particular, identifiable rhythm, they reflect the meandering eye of their maker.
Scattered throughout the book are apt, canny quotes, including Russell Baker (“New York is the only city in the world where you can get deliberately run down on the sidewalk by a pedestrian”); or from the Barnard College Bulletin (“The only real advantage of New York is that all its inhabitants ascend to heaven right after their deaths, having served their full term in hell right on Manhattan Island”). The photographs, made on the streets, at all times of day, reveal the human zoo that is New York.