“By thumbing its nose at both danger and the Depression, ‘Lunch Atop A Skyscraper’ came to symbolize American resilience and ambition at a time when both were desperately needed.”
—Time Magazine’s 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time
This photograph was actually staged as part of a promotional campaign for the skyscraper these guys were building, the RCA (now GE) Building in Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Even though the Depression has long since passed this photograph still feels iconic; to me it symbolizes the simultaneous efficiency and boldness verging on recklessness that America is still known for.
1932 must have been a rough year to find work. The Hoover Dam was built around the same time (1933-1947) and hundreds of workers were killed putting together that engineering marvel.
The men in this photograph had to take whatever work they could find and were being paid wages that would be unthinkable today. Therefore, I find the photo inspirational but not necessarily aspirational because by default if you’re reading this you were born into incomparably better circumstances than these men were:
“[The photo] suggests the peril that yawned in 1932, when America and the world, dangled over an abyss. And it contains the crazy confidence of a nation that knew the gravest danger was fear itself”