The spectacular 1932 photograph “Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam),” which shows a row of construction workers taking their lunch break on a steel beam high above Manhattan, is celebrating its 80th anniversary by being outed as a staged photo. It was posed for photographers as a publicity stunt for Rockefeller Center — atop whose former RCA Building, now the GE Building, it was taken — according to a historian at photo agency Corbis Images.
“The image was a publicity effort by the Rockefeller Centre,” Corbis’s chief historian Ken Johnston told the Independent. “It seems pretty clear they were real workers, but the event was organised with a number of photographers.”
The indelible image was first published on October 2, 1932, in the New York Herald Tribune. Because multiple photographers were there, the photo was never attributed to one specific person. A little over a decade ago Corbis hired a private investigator to try to discover the identities of the 11 men in the photograph, but to no avail. “For most of the men on the beam we got multiple names and for some no names at all,” Johnston said.
— Benjamin Sutton