The sixty-five photographs in this book are probably the best of the thousand Lewis Hine took during the construction of the Empire State Building. Several are now the standard image used to depict industrial output during the Depression and rightly so. Hine concentrates on the workers rather than the actual building and you can see just how precarious some of their activity is. Years before hardhats and workman's comp hundreds of seasoned craftsmen managed to erect a building nearly a quarter of a mile high in 410 days and weighing 365,000 tons.
Author Freddy Langer writes an interesting short essay about Lewis Hine explaining how he became interested in using photography to expose the exploitation of child labor during the early years of the last century. These photos were used in his book 'Kids at Work' (ISBN 0395797268). His interest in photographing the workplace got him the commission to record the building of the Empire State and some of these images also appeared in his 1932 book 'Men at Work' (ISBN 0486234754).
It is a shame that the book does not give more explanation to what the craftsmen are doing in the photos. A book that does have photos (though not by Hine) and detailed captions is 'Building the Empire State' (ISBN 0393730301) edited by Carol White, it reproduces seventy-seven pages of typewritten description, some of it quite technical, that someone at Starrett Brothers, the builders, produced as a record of the construction.
The Empire State was in competition with the Chrysler Building and a book by David Stravitz, 'The Chrysler Building' (ISBN 1568983549) is a week-by-week photographic construction record of Van Allen's Art Deco masterpiece with detailed captions to the pictures. Strangely many of Hine's photos clearly show the Chrysler Building in the background.
All three books celebrate the building of two stunning New York skyscrapers.