Collection of Olive Boe Johnson
Acquired by the present owner from the above, circa 1985
Other prints of this image:
Lewis Hine, Men at Work: Photographic Studies of Modern Men and Machines (International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, 1977), frontispiece (alternate cropping)
Karl Steínorth, Lewis Hine: Passionate Journey, Photographs 1905-1937 (International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, 1996, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 208 (alternate cropping)
Walter Rosenblum, et al., America & Lewis Hine (Aperture, 1977), p. 108
Photography/Venice '79 (New York, 1979), p. 22
Gretchen Garner, Disappearing Witness: Change in Twentieth-Century American Photography (Baltimore, 2003), p. 22, fig. 2.3
In the spring of 1930, Lewis Hine began documenting the construction of what would become the world's then tallest structure, the Empire State Building. Hired by the Empire State Commission to create advertising and promotional photographs, the 54-year-old Hine gamely and enthusiastically joined the workers on the girders, thousands of feet in the sky. The hundreds of photographs he produced are still perhaps the most dramatic and compelling record of skyscraper construction in the modern era. The photograph offered here, unlike many Empire State Building views that Hine printed, is rare in its large-size format, and was almost certainly intended for exhibition.
In 1932, a number of these images were included in the only book of Hine photographs published during the photographer's lifetime, Men at Work. In his introduction, Hine defines the book and the men who made it possible:
'This is a book of Men at Work; men of courage, skill, daring and imagination. Cities do not build themselves, machines cannot make machines, unless back of them all are the brains and toil of men. We call this the Machine Age. But the more machines we use the more do we need real men to make and direct them.
'I have toiled in many industries and associated with thousands of workers. I have brought some of them here to meet you. Some of them are heroes; all of them persons it is a privilege to know. I will take you into the heart of modern industry where machines and skyscrapers are being made, where the character of the men is being put into the motors, the airplanes, the dynamos upon which the life and happiness of millions of us depend.'
In Men at Work, the title for the image offered here is 'The Sky Boy,' and the caption reads, 'One of the first men to swing out a quarter of a mile above New York City, Helping to build a skyscraper.'
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