Skip to main content

A photographer documents the new San Francisco Bay Bridge from beginning to end

a photographer documents the new san francisco bay bridge from beginning to end foundation joe blum
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As commuters in the San Francisco Bay Area return to work tomorrow on September 3, those who drive between Oakland and San Francisco will be among the first to travel on the Bay Bridge’s new eastern span. The suspension bridge, which replaces a 76-year-old cantilever model that suffered significant damage during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, took more than 10 years to construct. Commuters and residents have watched the rise of the new bridge from afar, but photographer Joe Blum has been documenting it since the beginning and at the scene, before construction even started.

“When they started doing soil samples for the test piles for the new Bay Bridge, I showed up at the barge one day and they let me on,” the 72-year-old photographer told CBS Sunday Morning. “And I’ve shot virtually everything since then.”

While Blum has photographed the bridge from all angles, it was the thousands of ironworkers who Blum – a former boilermaker and welder turned photographer – was most interested in profiling, joining them on scaffolding, catwalks, and cables high up in the air as he lugged around his camera and a heavy camera bag.

“The engineers get credit. The designers and architects, they know how to get in front of the camera and talk about themselves,” Blum said. “These guys do not at all — and they’re the ones who are taking the plans, the design, the prints, and turning it into a living structure of steel and concrete.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The ironworkers in the beginning, however, seemed indifferent about Blum being there. “When it first started out, we were probably pushing him out of the way, you know? But he would get right in there and try to take the best shots, you know, of us working,” ironworker Jerry Kubala, Jr. told CBS reporter John Blackstone.

But they later grew to respect him. “We knew early on that he was always going to be our advocate,” said ironworker Ed Meyer III. “We could see it in his eyes and we could see it through the lens of his camera and the images that he took.”

As for the bridge itself, Blum was also interested in capturing the older cantilever bridge alongside the new one. “I often try and get the old bridge in the background of my photographs,” Blum said. “And somebody said to me, ‘Well, why do you want that ugly structure in the back?’ I see it as a beautiful structure. It was built with the technology and the understanding that they had at that time.”

Blackstone compared Blum’s work to that Life Magazine photographer Peter Stackpole, who photographed the construction of the original Bay Bridge and whose work is exhibited at the Oakland Museum of California. Blum’s work will also be recognized, as the San Francisco Arts Commission has opened a show of his work at San Francisco’s City Hall.

Blum was not paid for the work. Instead he did it as a labor of love, living off his Social Security and a small pension. After 15 years of documenting the bridge to the very end, he is now selling his photos.

Watch the CBS Sunday Morning interview here.

(Images via Joseph A. Blum via CBS, San Francisco Chronicle)

Les Shu
Former Digital Trends Contributor
I am formerly a senior editor at Digital Trends. I bring with me more than a decade of tech and lifestyle journalism…
This Norweigian Airbnb is the fairy-tale retreat of your childhood dreams
airbnb in gudbrandsdalen noraway air 1

Airbnb recently added its 4 millionth listing worldwide -- for perspective sake, that ungodly number is more than the combined listings of the top five hotel chains. Needless to say, with this much real estate there are plenty of options to choose from, to say the least. We've covered a number of dreamy Airbnbs over the years and this latest listing in the Land of the Midnight Sun should be on your wanderlust bucket list. If you've ever wanted to stay in a 17th-century Norwegian guesthouse, you're in luck.

Nestled in the quaint town of Gudbrandsdalen, Norway, the Nordigard Blessom is situated on a sprawling, functional 17th-century sheep farm that has been maintained continuously by the Blessom family for several hundreds of years. A series of 16th- and 17th-century wooden loghouses pepper the property as well as a livestock barn.

Read more
A faithful satellite drifts stunningly close: The best supermoon photos
best supermoon photos moon 2

From the first total solar eclipse to grace the continental United States in nearly 40 years to the recent Leonids meteor shower, we earthlings have been spoiled with a regular collection of astronomical events this 2017. And although the year may be coming to an end, the awe-inspiring events just kept coming over the weekend. Recently, skywatchers had the opportunity to take in a rare supermoon overhead -- the first and last supermoon of this year. Above, we curated a list of some of the best supermoon photos snapped around the globe but what exactly is a supermoon?

Rather than a perfect circle, the moon orbits around our home planet in an elliptical pattern and one full orbit around our planet takes roughly 29.5 days. Depending on the moon's location on this elongated orbital trajectory, our faithful natural satellite is sometimes closer or farther away from our planet. At the closest point of this orbit (perigee), the moon is a more than 31,000 miles closer to our planet than it is during its farthest point of orbit (apogee).

Read more
With its starburst design, the Joshua Tree Residence thwarts sand and spectators
Joshua Tree Residence

With its futuristic build and opaque exterior, Whitacker Studio’s Joshua Tree Residence is a diamond in the California rough. Architect James Whitaker designed the structure using a series of shipping containers arranged in a clever starburst formation. Even though the design may look a bit chaotic, it was intentional, as each container was positioned to provide privacy for residents.

The privacy is an essential part of the interior, which is minimalist and filled with natural light. Despite the asymmetrical design of the private residence, there is an openness to it, namely due to the open living area located in the heart of the home. This privacy aspect also extends to the back of the home, which features a secluded deck that's built into a cove of rocks, thus providing protection from the desert winds.

Read more