A Spaniard, A Slovak And An Irishman Are Sat At A Bar…

A Spaniard, A Slovak And An Irishman Are Sat At A Bar…

Famous photo of men having lunch on an iron girder whilst building the Rockerfeller Centre, New York.
Lunch Atop A Skyscraper

This is my favourite photograph, Lunch Atop A Skyscraper. Taken in 1932 during the construction of the Rockerfeller Centre, New York, it depicts 11 workmen casually having lunch utterly unconcerned that their legs are dengling some 260 metres above the city streets.

As someone who struggles to go up a ladder without feeling sick, the thought of perching on a narrow beam, 69 floors up, fills me with fear. Strangely, I’m more than happy to be miles up in an aeroplane, helicopter or anything else that flies but can’t stand on a chair. Weird? Maybe there’s a height where you know, should you fall, you’ll be instantaneously deceased rather than horrifically mangled.

The lads in this photo came from Ireland, central Europe, the Iberian peninsula and the Americas to work on the largest private construction project in the world at that time. Owned and financed by the hugely wealthy John D Rockerfeller, you’d think he’d have sprung for a few safety nets or something.

Still, at least they brought their lunch with them and didn’t have to nip off to the sandwich (roll/snap/butty) shop during their break. I’m unsure as to the toilet arrangements though!

The photographer was uncredited for decades until 2003 when it was attributed to Charles C Ebbets. There are suggestions that it was staged as he did orchestrate several other photographs that day showing men sleeping on the beams and even throwing an American football around.

Even if it was manipulated, the genius is in the appearance that it’s a casual, everyday scene and just a bunch of lads having lunch.

I have a copy of this photograph at the top of the stairs in my house, not quite the 260 metres in Lunch Atop A Skyscraper, but maybe helpful in challenging my Acrophobia!

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