Sunday, May 8, 2016

Lunch Atop A Skyscraper by Charles C. Ebbets


Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
Charles Clyde Ebbets

I've decided that Charles Clyde Ebbets doesn't get enough credit. So, today I'm doing my party to rectify that.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
11 workers having lunch on an exposed steel beam 840 feet above the ground.


Who is Charles C. Ebbets? That photo above - he apparently took it.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com


Ebbets was a native of Florida (actually born in Gadsden, Alabama) who became a photographer back in the days when that was a really cool and esoteric thing to be doing. You didn't just snap a photo and download it to your laptop then. It was a whole, long process of getting the right camera, getting the right film, getting the right lighting, setting the shot up for multiple takes to get just the right one because you won't know how they'll turn out until they're developed and getting the right this that and the other thing badda bing badda zoom. But Ebbets was really good at it.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com


Anyway, he set up the stunt called "Lunch atop a Skyscraper (1932)." Everybody knows that shot, it still sells in framed prints to this day. The shot is pristine, perfect lighting, perfect framing, just the right moment and all done under terrible conditions.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
While there were 11 workers, in many versions of the shot two of them get cut out.

It wasn't like the famous shot just happened. He had to set it up, which involved a whole lot of work.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
Here is all 11.

The famous shots were taken on the 69th floor (no, I don't know why he picked that one) of the RCA building as it was nearing the end of construction. If you compare the shots, you see that he apparently "worked" on the version that became famous. Notice that cable on the right? It magically disappears in the most iconic versions. Don't think they had photoshop in those days? You're right - but people who knew what they were doing could accomplish magic with an airbrush.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com

Ebbets had a number of useful talents. Among them was the fact that he had a good relationship with the Native Americans down in Florida (the Seminole tribe). That apparently carried over to New York City. It is well known that many of the tallest building in the city were built by the Kahnawake Mohawk tribe ironworkers who came down from southern Canada (on the St. Lawrence Seaway just south of Montreal). Whether or not this ability actually played a role in Ebbets' success is debatable, but he obviously did not mind working with these hard-boiled men. And they apparently were happy to show off.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
"Man Balancing on Skyscraper" by Charles C. Ebbets, 1932.

Anyway, aside from a few of these shots, I don't know if Ebbets took every single one. There was a fad in the 1930s to take these types of daredevil shots, not just in New York City, but in Los Angeles and elsewhere. There weren't a lot of really tall building being built around the country in those days, so most of them are from those two places.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com

Some of these shots were not taken by Charles Ebbets. We don't want to shortchange the talents of these unknown photographers. Let's just say they were taken in the style of Charles C. Ebbets.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
Chrysler Building, ca. 1932.

Anyway, enough said. Enjoy the photos.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
That looks like lower Fifth Avenue to me (I may be wrong). If so, this was taken while building the Flatiron. This photo is usually entitled "Charles C. Ebbets above 5th Avenue looking North 1905." I don't know where that title comes from because Charles Clyde Ebbets was born on August 18, 1905, so it is shall we say unlikely that this photo is of him from 1905. If you know the actual source, kindly leave me a comment below. Thanks.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com


Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com

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This one was in Los Angeles.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
30 stories high looking over the Hudson.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com



Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
This is 1925, they are over 20 stories high.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
1931, working on the Empire State Building. Chrysler Building in the background, it was finished just a year earlier.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
The Jones Family carried out a sword fight on the edge of the Times Square Hotel in 1925 to publicize it.

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
This is a photographer. Yes, they knew how to dress in those days. 

Charles C. Ebbets randommusings.filminspector.com
Men taking the test to become painters on the Brooklyn Bridge.







2016

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