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Iconic Photo of Construction Workers Lunching Atop a Skyscraper Was Faked

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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

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  1. Maybe you should change your headline. It was STAGED, not faked. It’s not a doctored photo. Right?

  2. Headline of your article was faked. Extremely bad practice. Blocking your website.

  3. And why do you tell us? Where is the benefit?
    I was more satisfied in the belief that is was real.

  4. very poor taste, and wrong definition of faked. your headline is compl,etely misleading. you are now welcomed into the world of the rest of journalism who misreport and alter meanings for sensationlism. congratulations. maybe you can get a tv show of your own.

  5. Of course the photo was staged. Photogs never just happen to be passing by the 58th floor of a steel frame under construction.

    Doesn’t say much for the PI firm either. I’d wager that if Corbin had visited Kahnawake where most of the skilled high steel workers on NYC projects hailed from, they could have determined the identities of the workers within a hour.

    “TWO THUMBS DOWN” for Blouin Art Info for gratuitous mud-slinging and add a raspberry [bltthhppp!] for Ben Sutton.

    For a genuine “story” about these fearless fellows, see the 1965 National Film Board of Canada piece by Don Owen:

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