Bridges have been a lifelong passion for Dave Frieder. As a kid growing up in New Jersey, he loved the overpasses that brought him into the city to visit his relatives. As an adult, he would scale as many of them as he could — more than 100 climbs of 20 bridges over the span of about 18 years. The result of these vertical travels is a beautiful photography book, “The Magnificent Bridges of New York City” (Brilliant Press), out now, with an endorsement from John Travolta calling him a “daring individual” and talented photographer.
When he was first getting started in the early 1990s, Frieder realized bridges would make great photography subjects. While there were plenty of engineering books about bridges, no one had ever made a fine-art book about the bridges of New York. He began making calls to the Department of Transportation and assorted other organizations to get permission to begin his climbs, as anyone doing so without authorization will be arrested. Eventually, permission was granted but with plenty of rules: He needed liability insurance, a full-body harness, a hard hat (“I’ve banged my head into steel plenty of times,” he says) and gloves. He also needed to be accompanied by one or two ironworkers, depending on the bridge. One of the unexpected downsides of bridge climbing, he noted, was being attacked by peregrine falcons. (“They’re incredible birds,” he notes, “But their claws are like razors.”) His favorite all-time bridge is the George Washington.
“In 2008, after 15 years, I was able to walk the main cables of the GWB,” he says. “I waited so long for that image, I was in a state of euphoria. I kept thinking, I can’t believe it. I’m on the main cable of my favorite bridge. Now, I like the Brooklyn Bridge a lot, but I like steel and I’ve crossed the GWB more than any other thing.
“I see bridges as giant working sculptures,” adds Frieder, who would photograph each bridge many different times in different light. “The more photographs I took, the more I saw them as pieces of artwork.”
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