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