Sunday, February 24, 2013

Swinging On Life's Beams

THIS PRINT of a famous photograph caught my attention while waiting for my husband to get his hair cut recently. Although the light fixture from above and the sunlight pouring in through the glass door made it impossible to get a good look at the picture, the work made me curious.

I learned that the image was taken on September 20, 1932, and first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune on October 2, 1932. It was a publicity shot staged apparently on behalf of what was then called the Rockefeller Center. Work was scarce and the 11 men on a supposed lunch break highlighted that the construction was providing needed jobs during the Great Depression. Several photographers were there to capture the men eating and chatting. Charles C. Ebbets is sometimes credited with taking this particular picture that evolved into a popular icon. Prints of the image have sold by the millions worldwide.

Lunch On A Skyscraper reaches beyond space and time to touch us on a deep level. Generally accepted as depicting genuine workers on a girder dangling sixty-nine floors over city streets, the image speaks of bravery and more. The need for a job is being balanced against its dangers and shows us that Mark Twain was right when he said, "Necessity is the mother of taking chances."

The men seem to sit lightly on the beam like children on some gigantic swing in the sky or birds on a wire. Nonetheless, it is easy to see this is a rough way to make a living when you don't have wings. We admire their bravado knowing one slight move in the wrong direction could lead to disaster. Many of us safe on the ground have felt similar danger, whether real or imagined. We weigh the options understanding there is little of substance that can be achieved in this world without taking a risk.

It would be interesting to see what surrounded the scene before it was cropped or framed by a camera. Would it have appeared quite so dangerous? Did the photographers also take somewhat of a risk to snap that picture and how far would you or I go to get the perfect shot?

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Copyright by Penelope Puddlisms

17 comments:

Stephanie said...

It's a great shot but I would never venture up high to take a photo like that as I am afraid of heights.

Sylvia K said...

Awesome capture!! But I would be too chicken to ever work in a place like that!! Just glad there are some that were brave enough -- or hungry enough to pose! Thanks so much for sharing this, I had never seen it before! Have a great week!

Gary said...

I always wonder if you have to keep remembering where you are. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

lindaakacraftygardener said...

What a fantastic photo.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I remember seeing that picture when I was a child and asking my mother about what a skyscraper was. (Small town girl from the NW). It must have been in some kind of photo book or collection, because I'm not quite that old! Fun memories and interesting to read your thoughts!

Ebie said...

This is a nice photo, but I have my legs trembling just looking at them feet hanging on the beam.

acreativeharbor.com said...

Wow! Great shot and fascinating for OWT ^_^

Deborah Kay at The Paint Splash said...

I have seen this picture before. Amazing they didn't have any safety ropes. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Debbie

NatureStop said...

Greetings from Oman!!!Very interesting post and it's a scary thought indeed to be there:)Thanks for sharing.Have a great day!

Shantana

ladyfi said...

It really is an amazing and iconic shot!

EG CameraGirl said...

Just looking at this photo makes my hands sweat. TRUE!

Carver said...

Fascinating post and I love the photograph.

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams said...

And just think of the lax to us now a days safety standards....

So many workers were killed by lack of those standards.

Still a iconic shot.

Jen

Pearl said...

thanks for background on it. I bought it as a postcard in NYC but couldn't part with it.

Gillian Olson said...

What a wonderful image!

Black Jack's Carol said...

I had not seen that photo, Penelope, so this was a fascinating read. Some of your thoughts and questions were mine as well, but as always, your unique mindset brought colour and clarity to the "fuzzier" grey ones. I have noticed a ruthlessness in some photographers that disturbs me. I like to think Mr. Ebbets took some time to appreciate the people in this photograph, maybe even staying in touch with them afterwards.

Jenny Woolf said...

That picture always makes me feel a bit strange - as you hint, it raises all kinds of emotions. I also feel a bit strange when watching Buster Keaton because I believe he did all his own stunts, and the art of stunting wasn't very developed in those days!