Influential Photographs: Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932 by Charles Ebbets


Look at this photograph and you will think twice if it is just a hoax. Look at this photograph and your insides will whirl. Look at this photograph and you will say, “Whoa!”

Were these men, whose feet were dangling hundreds of feet above New York’s streets, out of their minds? Because, really, who will eat lunch on a hanging girder and, consequently, who would be courageous enough to take a picture during the Rockefeller Center’s construction – on the 69th floor?

This legendary photograph which portrays 11 workers having a lunch break defines the career of an American photographer, Charles Ebbets. In 1932, Ebbets was the photographic director of the building’s construction. He took this famous photo in September of the same year and shortly after, it was published in the New York Herald Tribune.

This became one of the photographs that changed the world. It was adopted by pop culture and has so many versions to date. Some of these were humorous renditions featuring Hollywood icons, the Muppets, and even the casts from F.R.I.E.N.D.S., among others.

Another stomach-heaving photograph by Ebbets shows the same workers sleeping above Manhattan, as shown below.

Which other photographs do you think are influential? Post a hyperlink to the image in the comments – if you know it, please include the photographer’s name and the year the photo was taken.

Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.

written by basterda on 2011-03-07 #lifestyle #black-and-white #classic #iconic #charles-ebbet #influential-photographs-series

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  1. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    I love these Influential Photographs article :D

  2. coca
    coca ·

    i love this picture ♥

    this other two are amazing
    dali atomicus by Philippe Halsman
    and Behind the Gare St. Lazare by Cartier Bresson

  3. dirklancer
    dirklancer ·

    Great post, Erin!
    Here is my location article, shot from the same spot as this famous photograph:…

  4. sthomas68
    sthomas68 ·

    These guys had some cojones!

  5. natalieerachel
    natalieerachel ·

    So crazy! I love them!

  6. maneke
    maneke ·


  7. gnarlyleech
    gnarlyleech ·

    I have a big poster in this picture hanging in my house

  8. shadrack1
    shadrack1 ·

    Even though there are rumours it was staged, Robert Doisneau, Kiss by the Hotel DeVille (1950):…

  9. spoeker
    spoeker ·

    great series!!

  10. basterda
    basterda ·

    Thank you, @adi_totp!

    Those are amazing, @coca! Watch out for my article feat. Cartier-Bresson! :)

    Awesome location article, @dirklancer! Thanks for sharing!

    I agree with you, @sthomas68, @natalieerachel, and @maneke!

    Wish I had it in a poster, too! @gnarlyleech

    @shadrack1, That's pretty interesting! Another article about a 'kissing' photograph is here, too:…

  11. grazie
    grazie ·

    I love this ongoing series! Thanks! I'm excited about your upcoming Bresson article. A true master

  12. basterda
    basterda ·

    Thank you @spoeker et @grazie! :)

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