The shot of 11 steelworkers casually eating their lunch on a steel beam high above the Rockefeller Plaza in New York is one of the most famous photographs of all time, keeping framing shops busy from London to Los Angeles. The identity of the photographer who took the iconic Lunch atop a Skyscraper remains unknown, however.
Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, visitors to the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan can recreate the scene for themselves. Artnet News reports that a new interactive experience has been created at the Plaza building’s observation deck on the 70th floor.
Unlike the steelworkers, the visitors will be safely strapped onto a replica beam as it is elevated 12ft over the top deck and turned 180 degrees. This offers stunning views over the famous city landscape. The visitors can also have their own photograph taken as a memento of the occasion, which will surely be worthy of a frame once they return home.
The digital photograph is included in the $25 ticket price to the attraction, after initial admission to the observation deck has been obtained. This sounds like a unique opportunity not to be missed.
The original black and white photograph was taken in 1932, and is widely thought to have been staged as a part of the Rockefeller Center’s publicity campaign rather than a spontaneous moment from real life.
Nonetheless, the nonchalance of the men as they smoke, chat and eat is arresting considering the rather precarious nature of their lunch venue. The beam is reportedly 850 feet above the ground on the top floor of the building, just before it was complete, although the workers are obviously too accustomed to the view to notice it.
Ken Johnston, manager of the historic collections of Corbis, who acquired the image for their archives in 1995, said:
“There’s the incongruity between the action – lunch – and the place – 800 feet in the air – and that these guys are so casual about it. It’s visceral: I’ve had people tell me they have trouble looking at it out of fear of heights. And these men – you feel you get a very strong sense of their characters through their expressions, clothes and poses.”
The steelworkers in the shot are thought to be mainly immigrants to the USA, although their identities remain largely unknown. Two of them are thought to be from Ireland, while a third has been confirmed as Slovak immigrant Gustav Popovic.
The image has been widely reproduced and re-created over the years, and was included in the Time Magazine list of the world’s 100 most influential images in 2016. It represents the quintessential American dream of all-conquering progress, while showing the everyday bravery and work ethic of those who contributed to it.
Although the official identity of the photographer is unconfirmed, there is some evidence to suggest that it may be Charles C Ebbets (1905-1978), who was appointed photographic director of the Rockefeller Center in 1932.