21 July 2014
Let me know which you prefer and why.
Bridges have always intrigued me. They demonstrate humanity’s ability to work with (and against) Mother Nature. I cannot overstate my respect for those that design and build these behemoths. To discover them on the horizon is to place human feats of intellectual and physical prowess front and center. Their stamp upon the landscape gives me pause, but seen in an urban setting is simultaneously fitting and strange.
New York City is like American jazz: innovative, original, fluid, historic, unpredictable, discordant, sophisticated, and treasured. This comparison was apparent to me during my recent visit. That trip combined the usual flare with two other jewels: my eighty-nine-year-old uncle, who is a retired professional photographer, and a particular destination. We took car, light rail, and subway to approach our day’s event: to walk the Brooklyn Bridge.
The day-long adventure was almost seamless. Sure a sunnier day would have been appreciated, but even grey cloudscapes seemed to honor us. Mostly, cooler temps made our street travel and crossing the footbridge immeasurable pleasurable.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of those must-see landmarks for those who are keen on spying major cities from higher and more distant vantage points. At its official opening in 1883 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It’s a marvel of human construction that is steeped in ingenuity, tragedy and wonder. Many lost their lives in the service of bringing the bridge to life.
The just-over-a-mile-long span is an easy jaunt from Manhattan to Brooklyn or vice versus. It’s popularity has never wavered as a commuting fairway by bike, car or foot.
Since I’ve lived most of my life on the East Coast, New York has seen my presence so many times that I am puzzled that the Brooklyn Bridge had escaped my company. But the same fact applied to my uncle. So we vowed to join forces and just do it.
There is a sense of euphoria that washes over me when I traverse such a monumental structure. Waves of emotion hold me tight, and the grandeur of the views move inward where they rest to return at some later time.
These experiences also have a level of unreality in their reality. To imagine piles of raw materials turning into such beauty and utility is such a huge idea that even after scores of such structures, it still seems impossible.
Over the years I’ve been able to walk covered bridges and many smaller ones that cross creeks and rivers. But large pedestrian bridges easily rise above those, and are a more visually fulfilling accomplishment.
It’s not just the sweeping vistas and scenery. It’s the process of moving, for example, over the East River as though I am walking on water to the shores of Brooklyn.
As I was suspended over the water, I had the chance to contemplate the space that is apparent between the water, skyline and me in between them. It was splendrously joyful, and I take none of it for granted.
The list of bridges that I have walked may be short, but each left vivid tactile descriptors that remind me of their differences and similarities: Brooklyn Bridge (New York) , Deux-Rives (the Garden of Two Banks that joints Kehl, Germany, and Strasbourg, France), Golden Gate Bridge (California), Pointe Vecchio (Florence, Italy), and Pont des Arts (Paris, France). So many, many more to conquer.
Probably the most memorable of the above was the day that my grandchildren and I walked the Golden Gate Bridge. Their sense of excitement added to my own. The crystalline blue sky, the slight wind and a light crowd gave us permission to simply enjoy the experience. The symbolic orangey color of the beams acted as soldiers that led us back and forth on a shared journey of personal fulfillment. Click here to view my photographs from that crossing.
In the process of one of these adventure, I immerse myself: body, eye, mind, and spirit. After such small triumphs, I wonder: Was I really there? Did I take full advantage of the experience? What would a second walk achieve? Then I usually pivot to thoughts about philosophical remains of the day.
I’m still in total amazement that “we” can produce such architectural beauties. Their longevity is one accomplishment, the utility another. Really, it’s the variation on the theme that astounds.
The Brooklyn Bridge reminds me of a waltz: melodic and sensual. Without a great output of physical endurance it allows you to stroll at your own cadence from one urban center to another. Whether coming or going, each side gives an energetic view of the human capacity to create. The East River moves below, the heavens stand above, and there we are in the middle.
Tip of the Week: If you’ve never read The Photographer’s Eye (1966) by John Szarkowski, I strongly suggest that you run to your nearest bookstore, computer or library, and get a copy. It’s content never grows old. Black-and-white images and the author’s text are used to comment and describe the art of photography. Artists are well-known and not-so-well known, and each work gives a powerful visual statement about the possibilities within the frame.
“To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer’s craft…: what shall he include, what shall he respect? The line of decision between in and out is the picture’s edge. While the draughtsman starts with the middle of the sheet, the photographer starts with the frame. The photographer’s edge defines context. It isolates unexpected juxtaposition. By surrounding two facts, it creates a relationship… The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imagery frame. This frame is the beginning of his picture’s geometry.” — The Photographer’s Eye (1966) by John Szarkowski
View other entries for this week’s challenge:
If you’d like to join the Photo Challenge, please click here for details. If you have any questions, please contact me. Below is a reminder of the monthly schedule with themes for upcoming Photo Challenges:
1st Monday: Nature.
2nd Monday: Macro.
3rd Monday: Black and White.
4th Monday Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Animals, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Objects, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).
5th Monday: Editing and Processing with Various Apps Using Themes from the Fourth Week.