On September 20th, 1932,

(precisely 80 years ago) this famous black and white photograph was taken. The 11 men, who are supposedly Irish immigrants, are on top of the then-construction Rockefeller building, enjoying a skyline view of New York City during lunch time. No one truly knows who they are or the photographer’s name, or even if this is real! It seems like a daring spot to eat a sandwich but because this is pre-Photoshop days, not much editing was probably done.

Honestly, I don’t know too much about this photo, but I stumbled upon an article in FastCompany today that talked about a new documentary that explores its backstory. I’m not sure if it’s fictional, but it caught my attention.

I’ve always really liked this photograph. In fact, this was the first piece of artwork that I bought at some poster store in my freshman year in college. I couldn’t exactly figure out what I found appealing about this image other than the incredible setting for such a mundane, ordinary activity. But after watching the short trailer of the documentary and the more I thought about it, I came to the realization that I felt drawn to this photo because of the extreme sense of bravery and fearlessness of these 11 immigrant men who came to America start their new lives. And to me, that is what symbolizes America.

If we really break the population of America down to its history, I’m sure we can all agree that most of us, if not all, are from another descent. Sure, people would refer to themselves as “American” but it usually follows with “but my father’s side is Irish and my mother is German with a mutt of Spanish” etc etc. You get my point. About 60-80 years ago (which honestly isn’t that long ago), it was so much simpler compared to today to migrate into the US and start a new life.

Hard-working, motivated people with a dream is what made America the way it is today, and in the photograph’s case, it’s the mindset and determination of the 11 kind of men who built New York City. And with that kind of incredible history and mentality, it’s no wonder that the country is so proud!

But somewhere between then and now, America stopped welcoming hard-working people into their proud country. It’s as if the country thinks that they already have too many ambitious people, and they don’t want to get too many cooks in the kitchen. I understand that the pre-modern day immigrants started having families and growing the “American” population, but that’s not to say that they won’t migrate elsewhere. Making it so incredibly difficult for foreigners to come into their country is like disregarding America’s original roots and going against its history of how its ancestors initially came to the country. Did the open door only occur in a brief period in time and America is starting to re-brand itself? Did its ancestors and foreigners do so much damage to the country that it’s keeping its walls up? Did we completely miss the boat?

I’d be interested to see where this documentary takes us, and I’m curious to know what happened to these men!