Photo exhibit offers glimpse into new Bay Bridge span

June 24, 2013 7:59:54 PM PDT
While work continues on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge, dozens of photographs that document nearly a decade of labor to build the new span are on display at City Hall starting Monday.

The series of 85 photographs captured by former boilermaker, shipfitter and welder Joseph Blum, 72, are hanging on the walls on the ground floor of City Hall, providing a glimpse of the work that has gone into the $6.3 billion project.

Starting with photos snapped in 2004 and throughout the project's progression into 2012, viewers get a sense of what it takes to scale the cables, weld large metal pieces, hang by harness from atop a tower, and work with heavy machinery -- all while donning safety equipment, gloves, goggles and hard hats, often hundreds of feet above the water.

The photographer said he hopes the series shows "the skills, stamina, determination, the courage" that the workers have and use everyday.

The color photographs catch the Bay and the growing structure on both the foggy and sunny days, and many feature the San Francisco skyline in the background.

Blum said he did not interfere with the work while getting his shots, but rather "I tried to get as close as the work as possible without endangering myself or others."

The photographs give insight into the footwork, balance, handiwork and intelligence required to build a massive structure, Blum said.

"Everyday is a challenge," he said. "It's a lot more cerebral work."

He said he wanted to document the labor process, even if that meant getting into a crane above the bridge. He said he's comfortable at a construction site and not afraid of heights.

The San Francisco Arts Commission put together the show that is on display on the ground floor of City Hall.

The exhibition was initially timed to be on display in conjunction with the anticipated Labor Day weekend opening of the bridge.

However, after faulty bolts were discovered earlier this year, that date could be pushed back.

The new section of the bridge includes a self-anchored suspension span, which covers a 2,047 feet of the bridge east of Yerba Buena Island.

An artist reception will be held at the photo exhibit on July 11 at 5:30 p.m.

The exhibit runs until Sept. 27.

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