American photographer Lewis Hine did important work exposing the abuses of child labor, but he is also well known for the photographs he took during the construction of the Empire State Building. Lewis called the man in this photo, and others like him, “sky boy” but the photo, taken in 1930, has become known as “Icarus.”
Some think the photo was posed, but that has never been confirmed.To this day, one thing has always baffled me, particularly considering our digital age when photos can flash around the world in seconds…the steelworker in the photo remains unidentified.
One guess…many of the “high steel” workers were Native Indians and commuted from their home reservations in Canada. Perhaps they came to work, returned home with no relatives or friends in the area who could recognize or name him. Many think he may have been a Mohawk Indian, but that too has never been confirmed. And then I think he doesn’t necessarily look Native American so might he be English or Irish, as some have posited, who lived in upstate New York?
But through the years, no brother or sister, spouse, child, cousin, co-worker or friend has identified the man in one of NYC’s most iconic photos. Will we ever know?