If I were a betting man, I'd wager that you've seen this image from 1932 of construction workers sitting on an iron beam, called "Lunch Atop A Skyscraper." I'd also wager that you hadn't thought much about the photographers that took the image.
In this video published by Time magazine in their series "100 Photos," which explores some of the world's most iconic images, we get to go behind the scenes and see what it was like to be an ironworker up on a skyscraper in New York in the 1930s and get a glimpse of what it was like to be a photographer alongside them. And the short version is this: these photographers had a lot more courage than you or me.
Their attitude, their casualness, the indifference to the risk that they're taking is what separates the photograph. You see the picture once, you never forget it.
Irishmen, Native Americans, and other immigrants from all over the world worked together as ironworkers to build up New York — literally — and the photographers that created images of them had to be right up there as well. No ropes, no safety nets, no climbing harnesses, no hard hats. Just giant, heavy, cumbersome cameras held by photographers with bags of glass plates strapped to their backs and nerves of steel. Can you imagine changing plates while balancing on an iron beam 800 feet above Manhattan with nothing to make sure you didn't slip and fall?
Sometimes, it's good to think back on how far our industry (and our safety) have come.
Click here for a more detailed look at the image.