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Thought I’d climb the Empire State Building to show an unusual spin on the very mundane task of changing a light bulb. Go up, shoot, come down. No worries. It didn’t work out that way. Getting the photo took four climbs. I kept getting aced out by wind and weather, but you always climb when you get a slot, no matter what, because to climb the antenna you have shut down all the transmissions from the mast, which means taking television stations off the air. They don’t like that to happen, even at four in the morning. There are a lot of insomniacs in New York. 

On my second climb, moving too fast in the fog, I put my skull into the bottom of a very unforgiving I-beam. It opened a two inch gash in my scalp, and flooded my left eye with blood. The guy I was climbing with, Keith, shouted, “Don’t worry Joe, I’ll fix you up!” And he reached over and tightened the cinch strap on my head lamp. So now I’m essentially climbing with a tourniquet around my head. Which is probably okay, ’cause not much blood gets to my brain, even on a good day. 

I had promised my kids we’d go to Disney that morning, and had a flight arranged, so I got off the tower and got home, without a picture. We went straight to the airport, and my oldest daughter Caitlin held a rag on my head for a good deal of the flight till the bleeding stopped. We were on the Tower of Terror later that day. It’s strange being a photographer, is all. Joe McNally

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