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Look Up!
Photo: Jorge Lasala
One of my early memories is looking at a magazine picture of workmen sitting on beams of skyscrapers under construction in New York City.

The feeling of vertigo revisited me when I turned to page 20 of the LIFE weekend magazine for September 22, 2006. The “American Icons” page featured the view from high atop the Chrysler Building. The large color picture of an eagle overlooking the city was breath-taking.

A queasy feeling set in as I studied the smaller photos. A black and white photo showed a young woman with a large camera; she is perched on top of an aluminum creature, one of a number that ring the sixty-first floor. Knowing that these high-rises are built so that upper floors can sway with the winds, I can only wonder how she stayed on her perch.

Famous Pictures

The background story is fascinating. “In 1930, six years before becoming one of LIFE’s four original staff photographers, Margaret Bourke-White leased a studio in the Chrysler Building. She captured famous pictures of the skyline from atop its sixty-first floor gargoyles—and a colleague took an equally famous one of her prepping for a shot.”

After reading that information, the uneasy feeling really increased. I had to take several long breaths after realizing she went out on that point a number of times. When I read further, I nearly choked. It seems that the Conde Nast Traveler magazine recently featured a similar scene on its cover—model Naomi Watts in a Cavalli gown posed astride the same creature.

Then I read about the small color photo of a building engineer in the same place, “photojournalist Vincent Laforet recently created this homage to the woman once known as ‘Maggie, the Indestructible.’”

I’ve seen the Chrysler Building countless times yet I’ve never noticed these architectural details. No question that next time I will. I probably won’t forget this detail ever again—just like every time I cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge I continue to think about a picture taken atop a sloping support cable for a bridge.

Look up! What interesting detail are you missing?

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