Lewis W. Hine - Men Working on Skyscrapers

Objective: Select an image that you consider to be representative of today's documentary photography and that resonates with the documentary examples:

Workers on Empire State building
(NYPL Digital Gallery, 2011)
Title: Rivetting on the dome, a quarter mile up
Artist: Lewis W. Hine
Date: 1931
Location: Rochester, NY
Medium: Photography
“Lewis W. Hine. Rivetting on the dome, a quarter mile up during construction on the Empire state Building in New York City 1931 Photograph George Eastman House, Rochester; New York” (Pohl, 2002).

(Working on Skyscrapers | Aashish Puniany, 2011)
Title: Working on Skyscrapers
Artist: Unknown/Aashish Puniany
Date: Unknown
Location: Indonesia
Medium: Photography

In studying the images in the book I was very drawn to the work of Lewis W. Hine.  In his “Hine. Rivetting on the dome, a quarter mile up” I was quite amazed at the angle of the shot. The photographer is actually higher than the workers. The viewer normally would see the large towering buildings above them, not as small distant shapes below. The dark images of the men and structure contrasting the lighter city really show the viewer how far below the city is. This concept is very impressive totally captures how dangerous the condition is for the men working.  His title fills in some questions a view might have. First of what is, how high are these men, and the second is what are they doing.

It was difficult to find a modern version of this today with so much “red tape” and liability issues. Most photographs I found were stock images that were save and shot from the bottom of the structure with a large lens. In my mind that is a completely different photo. I finally found some photos that are quite similar to what Hine is doing in his. On Aashish Puniany’s blog, he features a small series of photos very similar to Lewis W. Hine of men working very high up on a building over looking the city below. Aashish Puniany also uses black and white photos like Hine, which creates a dynamic contrast, as he too shows his foreground darker and distant city below lighter.  His angle of his subject is not quite as drastic as Hine, but the photographs are still taken slightly above the subject to reveal they breath-taking height. A few of his photos defiantly highlight the lack of safety and danger of what these workers are doing. 

Works Cited:

"NYPL Digital Gallery | Detail." NYPL Digital Gallery | Home. Web. 05 May 2011. .

Pohl, Frances K. Framing America: a Social History of American Art. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2002. Print.

" Working on Skyscrapers | Aashish Puniany." Images, Videos, Websites and Many More. Web. 05 May 2011. .