Man On The Edge. Charles C Ebbets And That Photo

Man On The Edge. Charles C Ebbets And That Photo

I’ve written before about my favourite photograph, you can read about it here.

Today, I came across a remarkable photo related to that one and was genuinely surprised. In all my reading about the circumstances surrounding the image and the background of the photographer, I’d never really considered his position whilst taking it.

Charles C Ebbets

A bit of background for those unfamiliar with Charles C Ebbets.

In 1932, Ebbets was appointed the Photographic Director for the Rockefeller Center’s development. On September 20, 1932, he took the photo Lunch atop a Skyscraper, which depicts eleven men sitting on a girder eating lunch, their feet dangling from the beams hundreds of feet above the New York streets.

The photo was taken on the 69th floor of the RCA Building in the last several months of construction. It has been postulated that multiple photographers collaborated on the shoot, however, the Ebbets family has produced verified written records of Ebbets’ authorship including original receipts on Ebbets’ professional letterhead showing his billing for the work done on the shoot, an original glass negative of Ebbets at work that day on the beam adjacent to the workmen, other original images taken by Ebbets during his work at Rockefeller Center, photos of the image displayed in Ebbets’ office at Rockefeller Center, as well as copies of the original article from 1932 showing the famous photo which were found in his personal scrapbook.

You can read more about him here.

The thing that struck me is how elegant he looks. From his shirt and tie, to his dress shoes, he looks ready for a night on the town. I can’t comprehend the sheer nonchalance on display. The weight of the camera, the lack of safety gear, the 69 floor drop below. It gives me the fear just thinking about it.

In a world where we increasingly believed that we’re too mollycoddled, too sensitive and don’t have enough risk takers, this image stands out sharply.

if we don’t take risks, don’t get out our comfort zones and don’t push ourselves, we’ll no have a legacy of outstanding achievements to leave behind.

Would I put myself in the place on that photo? Yes! With a hard hat, a go-pro and 100 metres of safety line!

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