The Times We Lived In – At the dawn of the boom
Published: January 18th, 1986. Photographs by Tom Lawlor and Matt Kavanagh
Tom Lawlor took this photograph of the Dublin skyline while he was suspended from Ireland’s then-tallest crane
Matt Kavanagh took this hair-raising photo of Tom Lawlor dangling from the crane while taking the first photo
At this column we are fascinated not just by the photographs in our archive but by the lengths to which photographers will go to take them. This one, though, kind of takes the biscuit.
It shows a topping-out ceremony at the Friends’ Provident Centre in Dublin’s Dawson Street when the new building was made watertight in the winter of 1986. That’s what they’re doing, those tiny human ants you can see on the roof at the centre of the image.
The angle is such that it’s hard to figure out where, exactly, you are in Dublin’s city centre – unless you have a better head for heights than I have.
But the man whose head held no fear at all was photographer Tom Lawlor. He took the picture while dangling in an open cage suspended from a crane which, at 175 feet high, was the biggest in Ireland at the time.
Look at the crane in the foreground. Start at the bottom and follow the structure all the way until it reaches the top of the photo and disappears into the sky. Then keep going. That’s where Lawlor is, swinging in space.
In the interest of health and safety we should note that Lawlor was wearing a harness. He was also insured for a million Irish pounds. (Although, to be fair, the biggest danger to life and limb may well have been the evil-looking smoggy clouds which blur the edges of the city skyline.)
It was such an unusual assignment that The Irish Times sent Matt Kavanagh to take a picture of Lawlor taking his picture. The whole thing was, of course a canny stunt on behalf of Friends’ Provident – which ended up getting, not just one, but two whopping great pictures in the paper. With Dawson Street currently undergoing yet another major architectural makeover, we wait with bated breath to see how the current crop of new buildings will be unveiled.
These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com and from bookshops, priced at €19.99.