New York Attraction Recreates Famous Construction Worker Photo

The Beam New York City
The Beam in New York. | Tishman Speyer.

A new attraction in New York City is giving visitors the opportunity to recreate the famous photo of construction workers sitting on a steel beam high above the city: Lunch Atop a Skyscraper.

Called The Beam and located at the Rockefeller Center — the same building where the original photo was taken — it will be in operation at the Top of the Rock until January 31.

Unlike the worker men in the original photos, sightseers will be in no peril because the steel beam they’re sat on is just 12 feet above the observation deck. But thanks to a bit of trick photography and forced perspective, it will look as if they are swinging high over the skyline.

Joyriders can purchase a ticket online with prices starting at $34 per person with The Beam operating between 09:00 and 23:00.

What Photo is The Beam Recreating?

New York City’s latest attraction recreates the 1932 photograph entitled Lunch Atop a Skyscraper. The black and white photograph shows 11 construction workers apparently on a lunch break as they sit on a steel beam 850 feet above the ground on the sixty-ninth floor of what is now 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan.

Charles Clyde Ebbets
Many believe this man, Charles Clyde Ebbets, took the photo. | Public Domain/All Thats Interesting.

The photo is one of the most iconic of the 20th century, yet mystery surrounds the author of the photo. It is often falsely attributed to social documentarian Lewis Hine and this is due to another common misconception about the photo: that it was taken on top of the Empire State Building. Hine was commissioned to document the construction of the Empire State in 1930.

Some believe that Charles C. Ebbets was the photographer, but no one is really sure and there were three photographers present at the scene of the photo that day which was done for publicity purposes.

Photography Talk notes that whoever took the photo had to carry glass plates up with them and “switch out the plates as they stood hundreds of feet in the air on a steel girder.”

Some have speculated that a finished platform was just under the workers’ feet so The Beam ride is actually a far truer representation of Lunch Atop a Skyscraper than many might think.