Notable for the black-and-white photograph Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper (1932), American photographer Charles Clyde Ebbets was born in Gadsden, Alabama in 1905. The purchase of his camera, aged 8 (charged to his mothers account at the local pharmacy, no less!), sparked his lifelong love of the medium of photography, which was still a relatively new phenomenon at the time.
Ebbets started out as a still photographer in his 20s and then became involved with motion pictures - not behind the camera but in front of it! After a short stint as an actor, Ebbets became a professional thrill-seeker, becoming a pilot, automobile racer and wrestler, whilst simultaneously shooting pictures on a freelance basis. By the 1930s, gaining the recognition he truly deserved, Ebbets had works published in major newspapers across the US.
Appointed as the photographic director for the Rockefeller Centre (built 1930-1933) in 1932, the young Ebbets captured the photograph of his career. Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper sets a gravity-defying image of eleven men perched on a girder having lunch, feet dangling precariously, hundreds of feet above the busy New York streets. Initially appearing in the New York Herald Tribune, the photograph was taken on the 69th floor of the construction site!
A year later, Ebbets moved permanently to Florida, remaining there for the rest of his life. His familiarity with the Everglades led to a unique friendship with members of the Seminole Indian Tribe, and over time he became the first ever non-native American man ever allowed to witness and document their sacred Green Corn Dance rituals. Throughout the rest of his life, Charles C. Ebbets continued to photograph life in the South Florida region, up until his death in 1978.
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