Anything to Get the Shot: Precarious Positions

Photographers sometimes get into the most precarious positions to get that perfect shot. The humorous drawing (below left) was apparently part of the White House News Photographers Association banquet in 1923, perhaps poking fun at the contortions necessary to snap an elusive photo. (The unidentified photographer whose head has been pasted on was perhaps one of the more daring cameramen in the corps.)

Life imitates art in the photo (below right) of an unnamed photographer dangling hundreds of feet in the air, the difference between getting the shot and taking the plunge the ropes of a wooden swing on the hook of a crane. This shot gives whole new meaning to aerial photography!

Photographers Banquet, 1923, [White House Photographer's Assoc.]. Photo, National Photo Company, 1923. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.18588

Photographers Banquet, 1923, [White House Photographer’s Assoc.]. Photo, National Photo Company, 1923. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.18588

[Photographer with camera suspended from hook of a (crane?) high in the air] Photo, National Photo Company, between 1909 and 1932. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b09396

[Photographer with camera suspended from hook of a (crane?) high in the air] Photo, National Photo Company, between 1909 and 1932. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b09396

The flights of derring-do, or in my mind, derring-don’t, continue in the photos below. In this 1907 photo snapped eighteen stories above New York’s Fifth Avenue, the photographer appears to almost float in midair. Spotting the thin iron bar supporting him doesn’t offer much comfort!

Photographing New York City - on a slender support 18 stories above pavement of Fifth Avenue. Photo copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood, 1907. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a44667

Photographing New York City – on a slender support 18 stories above pavement of Fifth Avenue. Photo copyrighted by Underwood & Underwood, 1907. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a44667

A duo of daring photographers snap each other’s portraits on the edge of a building’s roof, likely in Washington, D.C. This photo is part of the National Photo Company Collection, where D.C. photographers show up as subjects as well.

[Two photographers taking each other's picture with hand-held cameras while perched on a roof] Photo, National Photo Company, between 1909 and 1932. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.13703

[Two photographers taking each other’s picture with hand-held cameras while perched on a roof] Photo, National Photo Company, between 1909 and 1932. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.13703

This last photo’s caption really says it all: Difficulties of the cameraman, where a man with what appears to be a movie camera captures the action from a rather high seat. If my work required perching atop a billboard, I think I would be searching for new employment!

Difficulties of the cameraman. Photo, National Photo Company Collection, between 1909 and 1932. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b42821

Difficulties of the cameraman. Photo, National Photo Company Collection, between 1909 and 1932. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b42821

Photographer on 33rd floor Met. Bldg. Photo, Bain News Service, 1908. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.00016

Photographer on 33rd floor Met. Bldg. Photo, Bain News Service, 1908. hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.00016

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5 Comments

  1. Fco. Campos
    June 3, 2016 at 10:46 am

    I like it

  2. Becky
    June 3, 2016 at 10:54 am

    At least in the 1907 over-5th-Ave photo his foot is hooked around a girder strut

  3. Dick Jenkins
    June 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    I was once asked to produce panoramas from atop the property at 500 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. I had to climb to the roof, the 59th floor, then climb a maintenance ladder to the top of the air cooling towers. The wind blew constantly, a 25 lb. weight was hung from my tripod to steady my camera, and a peregrine falcon took exception to my sharing his domain. The cooling tower was made up of three huge fans offering an eighteen inch wide walking surface at its perimeter. Most harrowing was when the fans came on completely enveloping me in a rush of warm, moist air that fogged my glasses and obscured my vision causing me to immediately fall to my knees. In spite of it all, the panoramas were acquired. Of all my photo assignments I consider this my most thrilling and memorable undertaking.

    I do have a photo self-taken from my precarious position if you would allow that.

    Incidentally, both 500 Fifth and the Empire State buildings were designed by the same architectural firm and opened to the public in 1931.

  4. AndrewC
    June 3, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Love it! These are the true heroes of photography! Sad that the art has been dwindled down to Instagram and “selfie sticks”!

  5. Carl Fleischhauer
    June 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Fun to see, and great to be reminded of the standard “portable” press cameras in the day of the Graphlex, Speed Graphic, and others — before twin-lens reflex cameras and the 35mm roll-film revolution overtook photojournalism from the 1930 to the 1950s. I am not a particular expert, but I think that the fourth photo above (hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.13703) depicts (on the left) a with-reflex-mirror Graphlex and (on the right) a risk-of-parallax Speed Graphic. No doubt both exposing 4×5-inch film. Yikes!

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