The Rise of a Landmark

Lewis W. Hine.
CLIMBING UP THE BEAMS ON THE EMPIRE STATE
—100 STORIES UP, ca. 1931. Gelatin silver print.
George Eastman House. Gift of the Photo League, New York;
ex-collection Lewis Wickes Hine.  

From bedrock to the colossus of the Manhattan skyline, photographer Lewis Wickes Hine documented every foot of the construction of the monumental Empire State Building. In 1930, Hine began the treacherous ascent-safety belt in place and camera in hand-with the expectation of creating an ideal portrait of modern architecture. However, his resulting photographs of this year-long project speak more of the integrity of the workers who toiled to perfect the structure than of the glorification of the building itself.

Hine's Empire State photographs build on this theme of the human condition amidst the quickening pace of early 20th-century society.

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