Icarus atop Empire State Building by Lewis Hine (1931)

The photograph titled “Icarus atop Empire State Building” was captured by the artist Lewis Hine in New York, 1931. It illustrates a striking moment during the construction of one of the most iconic skyscrapers in the world.

In the photograph, a worker is perched precariously atop what appears to be a high section of the Empire State Building. The man is in a dynamic pose, reaching upward along a bent iron or steel beam that extends into the sky. He is holding on with one hand, while his other hand seems to be working or adjusting something on the beam. The worker’s attire looks typical of the era’s laborers, with a sleeveless shirt and work pants, and his attention seems focussed on the task at hand.

Below the man, a vast urban landscape spreads out, giving a dizzying sense of height. The photograph is in black and white, emphasizing the contrast between the man, the structural elements of the skyscraper, and the distant cityscape. There’s a sense of bravery and boldness evoked by the image, showcasing the human element amid enormous architectural feats during a time when such safety measures as are standard today were often lacking.

Other Photographs from Lewis Hine

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