The Old Bay Bridge

The Last 8x10 Photographs of the Bay Bridge, 2014—2015

Portrait of Rocky McCorkle, August 29, 2014

Portrait of Rocky McCorkle, August 29, 2014

Film is dead. Or seemingly just the film types that I love the most. For 15 years, I’ve shot solely with Fujicolor 160S film because of the lack of grain and sharper-than-real-life quality. Like an unhealthy relationship though, my marriage to film is destined to end.

To give you a little background, I’m a tortured artist. Before I embarked on the project that I will eventually tell you about, I spent 5 years trying to create the world’s largest photography exhibition. In theory, it will span 1000+ feet of wall space (over three football fields in length). I say in theory, because I haven’t been able to show it in its entirety yet—the consensus being that it is too large.

From 2014­­­—2015, I photographed the dismantling of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, shooting with an 8x10 camera, Ansel Adams’ style.

Fujicolor Pro 160S scan, 80 x 100 inches (203.2 x 254 cm)

Fujicolor Pro 160S scan, 80 x 100 inches (203.2 x 254 cm)

I am an 8x10 photographer who usually creates fictional photo series and a documentary project doesn't fit into my normal subject matter. Still, the similarities are inescapable: these f/64 sequential exposures convey time, the beauty of aging, and features the San Francisco landscape that I love. 

Whereas, my last project was mentally challenging, my documentation of the bridge was physically challenging. 

Have you ever thought (when sitting across the table from a good friend or your parents), “Wow, there will come a day when this person isn’t around anymore.” That’s how I felt about this aging bridge on its last leg.

Some of the challenges of this project:

  • In order to photograph the bridge, I had to carry my 8x10 cameras, film holders, and tripod 7 miles round-trip to get to the construction zone. The first five times that I went out there (before I purchased a fold-up bike), I simply walked, pulling my equipment behind me with one arm.

  • There is very tight security. Nearly every night for the first few months, the security guards escorted me off of the bridge. I did hear some great stories from them though.
  • The best chance for photographs of construction workers was at sunrise—and I am in no way a morning person. Nevertheless, I’d wake up at 4:30am, drive a half hour from San Francisco to Oakland, and then bike 30 minutes uphill just to shoot one or two sheets of film. 

6:20 AM, January 5, 2015, Chromogenic Print, 40 x 50 inches (101.6 x 127 cm)

6:20 AM, January 5, 2015, Chromogenic Print, 40 x 50 inches (101.6 x 127 cm)

  • I felt it was only appropriate to shoot the discontinued bridge with discontinued film. This project is simultaneously an affectionate homage to the Fujicolor Pro 160S 8x10 film that I shoot with, which was discontinued in 2010.
  • My camera is who-knows-how-many-years old and I always have to repair the bellows with black tape, and then more black tape.

  • Despite the crazy wind and low light conditions, each plate in the series is a single shot capture at f/64.  

I was escorted off of the bridge by security many times, I had light leaks ruin some of my best shots, and I “abandoned ship” on a rainy night only to see Seth Field’s Instagram of the most amazing sunset that I have ever seen.

But, all of the pain, heartbreak, and FOMOS (Fear Of Missing Out on Sunsets) was worth it to get that twice-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse moment.

I wish that I could breakup with film because my life would be so much easier without it. 

But I can’t, I love it too much.

                                                                                                      Lunar Eclipse, September 27, 2015

                                                                                                      Lunar Eclipse, September 27, 2015