“Men at Lunch”: A Documentary About One of the World’s Most Timeless Images

Everyone knows the iconic photograph taken in 1932 entitled Lunch atop a Skyscraper by photographer Charles.C Ebbets, depicting a group of eleven construction workers taking a break in New York City while casually dangling their legs off a long steel girder, 850 feet high above the ground!

This stunning photograph has captured the imagination of millions of people around the world and now director Seán Ó Cualáin has created a brilliant documentary exploring the fascinating story behind the photograph and focuses not so much on the technical part, but he tries to convey what exactly is going on in the picture,who are these men, where did they come from?

It was taken on the 29th September, 1932 from the 69th floor of the RCA building during its last few months of construction. Despite being published in the New York Herald Tribune a few days later, the photo spent the better part of the past century either misattributed or marked with “photographer unknown”. Not until 2003 did a thorough investigation uncover Ebbets as the photographer behind one of the world’s most iconic images.

 The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) site states:

“Ever since the photograph was published anonymously in the New York Herald Tribune on October 2, 1932, the men’s identities have been a mystery. Many of those who have been fascinated by the photo throughout the years have shared the conviction that one of the workers is a distant relative; others, meanwhile, have questioned the photo’s authenticity outright. Accessing the vast photography archives at Rockefeller Center and the Iron Mountain storage facility in Pennsylvania, Ó Cualáin follows the clues in an attempt to discover the photo’s long-held secrets. With the meticulous, painstaking precision of a detective, Ó Cualáin tracks down the original glass-plate negative, and then reconstructs the photograph as a digital projection with actors recreating the workers’ poses, allowing the minutiae of the image to be studied from every possible perspective. Interviews with archivists, photographers, and historians eventually uncover compelling evidence that a few of the photo’s subjects may have roots in the small village of Shanaglish, Ireland.”

Information: TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival)

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