One of New York City's most famous photographs turned 80 Thursday. "Lunch Atop A Skyscraper," showing 11 workers eating lunch while sitting on a steel beam 800 feet above Rockefeller Center, was taken on September 20, 1932.
The image, taken at what is now the GE Building, struck a chord with Americans during the Great Depression. Ken Johnston, director of historical photography at Corbis Images-- the company who owns the photograph-- talked to The Wall Street Journal:
“This is the first two years of the Great Depression,” says Mr. Johnston. “Usually when you saw lines of men, at that time, they’d be in a bread line, at a soup kitchen,” not working and eating lunch, he says. Here, in the new and exciting age of skyscrapers, the photo displayed “the worker in America in the 30s, keeping going and building.”
Although Johnston confirms the photograph was likely a staged publicity stunt, he has no doubts the men were as fearless as they look. "Those guys are too strong of characters to be fakes," he told DNAinfo. "They do work up there. There's a great tradition of photographing construction workers up on the beams."
Much is still unknown about the photograph. Although Charles Ebbets is often credited as the photographer for the image, it's tough to verify. Additionally, the identities of nine of the men are still unknown. Two men were identified, according to The Journal, during research for "Men At Lunch," a documentary about the photograph which was recently screened at the Toronto Film Festival.
Artist Sergio Furnari created a lifesize sculpture of the 'Lunch Atop A Skyscraper,' which can be seen sometimes on the back of a truck in New York City: