July 18, 2013

SF Bay Area photographers honor workers who bridge the bay

Workers building the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, 2012; photograph by Joe Blum.

Contributed by Lincoln Cushing, Archivist and Historian

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was one of the engineering marvels born during the depths of the Great Depression in the mid-1930s.

Thousands of people were put to work building the infrastructure we still benefit from today.

Henry J. Kaiser and his industries were significant players in at least four key aspects of building that bridge:

  • helping secure U.S. government support and funding for the project

  • constructing footings on the East Bay side

  • initial painting of the bridge, and

  • providing concrete for the other bridge components beyond the East Bay footings.

Kaiser Permanente has roots in ironworker history as well, going back to the first president and CEO of the Health Plan and Hospitals, Clifford Keene.

Noted Bay Area labor photographer Joe Blum has documented the entire construction of the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which is scheduled to be dedicated this fall. Blum's exhibit of these photos, " The Bridge Builders," features 80 large-format color images that highlight and honor the workers who've brought the huge project to fruition.

The show is hosted by the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries Art at City Hall Program and can be seen on the ground floor of San Francisco City Hall. The free exhibition runs through September 27 and is open to the public.

A second Blum exhibition, "A View from the Bridge: Black and White Photography by Joseph A. Blum," will be on display August 3 through October 3 at the Harvey Milk Photo Center in San Francisco.

This 1935 photo by Peter Stackpole is titled "Men Working on I Beam." San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge construction photos on display at the Oakland Museum of California through January 2014.

Another exhibition, "Peter Stackpole: Bridging the Bay," features 20 photographs documenting the original Bay Bridge construction in 1935. Stackpole was a pioneer in the use of the then-new imaging technology — the compact 35mm camera. The show runs at the Oakland Museum of California through January 2014.