Day 359 of Colourisation Project – May 1
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
If you suffer from vertigo, today’s photo will make your stomach churn.
An iconic image of New York City’s industrial age, it is one of the biggest selling historical images of all time. Its author and its authenticity have been the subject of much debate over the years.Titled Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam), it was taken on the 69th floor of the RCA Building during final months of construction at 30 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. Today the building is the 14th tallest in New York City and the 39th tallest in the United States. The building took three years to complete and was opened on this day, May 1, 1933 as part of the Rockefeller Center.
Although the photo is commonly credited to photographer, Charles C. Ebbets, information has come to light, to suggest that as there were multiple photographers present at the shoot, making it difficult to ascertain exactly who took the shot; (although this is still hotly contested by Ebbets’ family). Adding further to the uncertainty, the image was frequently but mistakenly attributed to Lewis Hine, who was famous for documenting the construction of the Empire State Building in 1931. Indeed if you google “Empire State Building construction images”, this picture always comes up.
This classic photograph depicting eleven construction workers, nonchalantly eating lunch, perched on a girder with their feet dangling some 256 meters (840 feet) high above the streets of Manhattan, was in fact a publicity stunt staged by the Rockefeller Center to promote its new skyscraper.
Today’s Health and Safety officers would had have a field day! No safety harness, no builder’s helmets…….no sense? Don’t be too alarmed, no humans were killed in the making of this photograph. What you can’t see in the image is a platform below the men. The angle from which the picture was taken gives the illusion that nothing separates the men from the pavement. What brilliant art direction…dangerous nonetheless!
Now, to dispel any ideas that it has been photoshopped, as is widely believed, the original glass negative owned by Corbis Images, who acquired it from the Acme Newspictures Archive in 1995, is safely stored in a temperature-controlled facility at Iron Mountain records management company in Pennsylvania.
Known for fifty-five years as the RCA Building, it changed owners and name in 1988 to the GE Building. As of 2015, it is now known by the name of its new corporate owner –The Comcast Building.
In 2012 a documentary film titled Men At Lunch, was launched at the Toronto International Film Festival and focuses on the men themselves and their immigrant identities, rather than the man behind the camera.
For your enjoyment today I leave you with the trailer of that film.