Everybody knows that black-and-white photograph of construction workers sitting on a suspended steel beam–men eating lunch, smoking cigarettes and reading the newspaper as if they weren’t 850 feet above the concrete streets of New York. Well, 80 years later (the photo was taken in 1932) the iconic image continues to intrigue and live a life of mystery.
Four years ago, brothers Seán and Eamonn Ó Cualáin discovered the photograph while in an Irish pub in their native Galway, where a local claimed his father and uncle-in-law were two of the men on the beam. Inquisitive filmmakers, the brothers set out to prove (or disprove) the claim. They documented their painstaking research in the new film “Men at Lunch” which finally reveals the long-mislaid identity of the photographer (it was prizefighter Jack Dempsey’s official staff photographer, Charles C. Ebbets) and uncovers another (unpublished!) photo of the same men on the same day, but this time waving their hats. Yet for all the research, they’ve managed to bring to light only two of the eleven cavalier workers in the photo (Joe Eckner, third from left, and Joe Curtis, third from right). While the film is just now making its way to the US (it debuted in NYC last weekend), the brothers’ interest in identifying the other nine men remains strong. They’ve recently enlisted the help of TIME magazine (via Editor Ben Cosgrove–a social media wizard, btw–and International Picture Editor Patrick Witty) to circulate the second photo, hoping someone somewhere will recognize an ancestor and be able to prove it. See anybody you know?