Monday, January 14, 2013

Power of Pictures - part 2

Information on this photo can be found at the bottom of the post.

Looking at the historic photo and using the Photo Analysis Guide I would make these notes under 

Observations / What I see
  • Eleven men sitting on a steel beam high above the skyline
  • They are not wearing safety gear or rope 
  • Most are wearing soft caps
  • I see skyscrapers below them
  • Some men are reading newspapers
  • Some men are eating
  • There is a wire cable on the right side of the picture
  • It looks like a candid shot
  • Three men are wearing coveralls
  • One man is shirtless
  • One man is wearing just an undershirt
  • Old fashioned clothing
  • Probably taken during the summer - based on the clothing the men are wearing (one is shirtless)
  • I see men sitting on a steel beam (girder) and it makes me think of Mohawk ironworkers who helped build many New York  skyscrapers.

Interpretation/ What I Infer
1.  Why was this photograph taken?  Documenting the building of a new skyscraper.
2.  What is interesting or surprising about the photograph?  How casually the men are treating the great height.  They are sitting on steal beam taking a lunch break.
3.  What is unique about this image that the photographer wanted to capture.  How relaxed and comfortable the men were.  The photographer must also be up high to get this shot.
4.  Why did this photograph survive?  Looks like part of a collection of a professional photographer.
5.  Do you think this photograph is a legitimate historical document?  Yes
6.  Does the photograph accurately reflect anything about a way of life during this historical period?  Worker Safety was not a high priority at this time.  What do you know about this time period?  Mohawk Indians were well respected ironworkers.
7.  What uses might have been made of this photograph during its initial existence?  Documenting the building of this skyscraper.
8.  What can you conclude from what you see?  These men did not have a fear of heights!  They must have been very agile and strong.

Research / What I want to Investigate

1.  Compose research questions that need further investigation based on your observation of this photograph.

Who was the photographer?  
What other pictures did he take?
What building was he documenting?
Who were the men on the steel beam?
When did safety laws get passed?

The analysis of this photograph in class makes a great hook for further research.  It also helps build anchor points to hang new information on.

There are two picture books that I use as connections:  Sky Boys:  How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson. (Many of Lewis Hines photos can be seen on the end papers of the book.)  The second book is Sky Dancers by Connie Ann Kirk, Christy Hale.

Photo Caption: Construction Workers building the Empire State Building/Lewis Hines photographer



  1. Every time I see it, I am amazed. What a good lesson plan you just shared, Ruth. Great ideas all the way through. I'll share this with others at school!

  2. Storykeeper FerrisJanuary 15, 2013 at 6:08 AM

    Thank you for the complement. I saw a picture Hines took of several men napping on a beam during their lunch break. I guess they weren't restless sleepers.

  3. I really enjoyed reading the questions you posed (and the answers you provided) especially since I'm familiar with Sky Boys. What a fantastic book! I'm a big fan of all of Hopkinson's work.

  4. It's a great book. The kids are amazed by the pictures.

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