Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Love This Picture!



Have you ever seen this photograph? It’s called Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, 1932, by Charles C. Ebbets. You can tell it was taken in New York City because of the Essex House sign just over the middle guy’s head, the same sign you can see today from just about anywhere in Central Park. This photograph draws me in like no other photograph can — it’s almost like Da Vinci’s Last Supper in that it (a) involves a meal and (b) each character depicted has a distinct personality. I tacked the framed photo onto my office wall yesterday morning and found myself at various points of the day simply stopping and staring at it. I’d love to go back in time and get to know each of those guys, really understand their frames of references. For a good joke, I might even tell them about that wacky future federal agency we call OSHA, just so they can get a chuckle out of what a bunch of pansies blue collar men and women turn out to be with all their silly safety standards.

The family and I were in New Jersey visiting the missus’ relatives over the weekend and decided to hit the Big Apple before returning to Boston, so I picked that photograph up from one of the stands you see along the edge of Central Park. That wasn’t the first time I saw the photo however. The first time I saw it was a couple of years ago when my wife dragged me over to our then-future house to take a tour. Right where we walked in, there it hung. I half-jokingly, half-seriously told her that one of the conditions I’d have to insist on should we buy the house would be that we keep the photograph. She laughed and I said, “I’m not kidding.” I really felt that way about it at the time.

I have, of course, encountered many photographs and paintings during my travels over the years. I remember quite fondly the art history courses I took in college and the hours spent in art museums. I even have this conceit that I possess an innate artistic sensibility that makes me a bit more receptive than average to the images we humans have rendered. Whether that’s true or not, as of right now, I can think of nothing that affects me more profoundly than this particular photo. I just can’t stop looking at it!

22 Comments:

Blogger tiff said...

That picture makes me dizzy, even though I too would love to meet all the guys in it and ask them "what the heck were you THINKING?" Those guys must have had some excellent sense of balance.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Flood said...

Yeah. I didn't know I could get vertigo from a picture.

6:00 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

These guys are "old school." They probably never heard of safety measures or lawyers, not that they'd have much use for either one.

Yep, back in those days, you couldn't afford to get dizzy. If the foreman told you to eat your lunch on a beam hundreds of feet up in the air, by gum that's just what you did!

6:48 AM  
Blogger tiff said...

Now I'm thinking about where they used the bathroom. Why must my mind work in this way??

7:09 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Bathrooms? Bah! They had no use for bathrooms. You just held it in.

7:13 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Funny. My friend Clarity posted that same photograph a couple of months ago.

BTW, did you get the e-mail from me because I haven't rec'd your address to send you the Tobiass Wolf book. I found it the other day and am just waiting to hear from you.

7:39 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Kathleen, I haven't seen your email, possibly because of the junk email filter I have. Please resend and put "Tobias Wolff" in the subject line and I'll look for it. Thanks!

7:46 AM  
Blogger magnetbabe said...

Bathrooms? Bah! They had no use for bathrooms. You just held it in.

Held it in? Are you kidding?! That kindof of height screams for sword fighting.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

The photo is moving for sure. I know exactly what you mean. OSHA was the bane of my existence when I was a roofing contractor. I hated OSHA.

8:09 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Held it in? Are you kidding?! That kind of of height screams for sword fighting."

The average working man back then could hold it in for 10-12 hours at a time while still drinking a cup of coffee every hour. They liked it that way.


"OSHA was the bane of my existence when I was a roofing contractor. I hated OSHA."

Have you ever seen plasterers on stilts? OSHA didn't like that very much. Neither did the insurance companies.

8:23 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

I've always loved that picture. My mother always gets freaked out by it, being petrified of heights and all. Now that's my kind of job!

9:09 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Sent another...

9:11 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I've always loved that picture. My mother always gets freaked out by it, being petrified of heights and all. Now that's my kind of job!"

You could do that? I'm impressed.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Wordnerd said...

Not only could I not do that, I can't even look at the guys that ARE. No. Stinkin. Way.

11:08 AM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

I've seen that picture a few times and it gives me chills. You have to wonder if their isn't something just below them that the camera didn't catch. A platform or something?

I drove to Boston once just to go to the museam because they had a collection of Hockney paintings. (He did a series of paintings of the Grand Canyon.) Wasn't a wasted trip.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I have vertigo just from looking at this photograph, but I also love it and know it. Husband always mentions this photo. I should get a tiny copy for our room ... then I'd be swooning to it most of the night in that vertigo death grip. hehe

2:23 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"Not only could I not do that, I can't even look at the guys that ARE. No. Stinkin. Way."

Ha! They could probably nap on that thing if they wanted to.


"I drove to Boston once just to go to the museam because they had a collection of Hockney paintings. (He did a series of paintings of the Grand Canyon.) Wasn't a wasted trip."

If that's David Hockney, I'm familiar with some of his stuff. Great painter.

"I should get a tiny copy for our room ... then I'd be swooning to it most of the night in that vertigo death grip. hehe"

Hubby would like that I'm sure.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

That photo was actually made in 1967, with guys in period costume sitting 4 feet off the ground in front of a giant poster of 1930s New York. It was made by the same company that, two years later, faked the Apollo 11 moon landing, and for whom Elvis Presley was employed until he retired to Roswell, New Mexico in 2000.

I just thought you'd like to know the TRUTH.

8:32 PM  
Blogger boo said...

i wonder whats in their lunches?

4:29 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I just thought you'd like to know the TRUTH."

Leave to you, Farrago, to get to the bottom of things.


"i wonder whats in their lunches?"

I'm guessing plenty of knockwurst.

6:05 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

My bro-in-law's dad worked for a crew in California that did construction up that high. They had one guy get up there on his first day, got scared, and couldn't get down. None of the rest of them could get around him, so they had to wait until he quit freaking out. Now that I wouldn't like.

But otherwise, I love heights.

9:30 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

I have a lot of sympathy for that guy.

9:37 AM  

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