Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy - Brooklyn Bridge

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Image of Brooklyn Bridge

Walker Evans , (Nov 3, 1903–Apr 10, 1975)

Brooklyn Bridge

2 1/2 in. x 1 5/8 in. (6.35 cm x 4.13 cm)

Medium and Support: Gelatin silver print
Credit Line: Gift of Arnold H. Crane
Accession Number: 1985.46.96


When the Brooklyn Bridge connecting the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan opened to traffic in 1883, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and its towers were the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere. A key feature of the city’s urban landscape, the Brooklyn Bridge is a cultural symbol of modern America. Photographer Walker Evans had a clear view of the bridge from his rented room in Brooklyn Heights. While other photographers focused on a lateral view of the bridge with the Manhattan skyline visible in the distance, Evans offers a frontal perspective, that of a pedestrian at a moment of quietness. The Brooklyn Bridge’s steel cables and Gothic arches become an abstract image of geometric designs and shadows. Such pictures portrayed the grand suspension bridge as an emblem of modernity.

Poet Hart Crane (1899–1932), who like his close friend Evans lived in Brooklyn Heights, also found the bridge a source of inspiration and a symbol of optimism. In 1930 Crane published The Bridge, a book that was accompanied by three of Evans’ bridge photographs. In the final section “Atlantis,” Crane’s hopeful vision is expressed as his words articulate the powerful geometry seen in Evans’ pictures:

Through the bound cable strands, the arching path
Upward, veering with light, the flight of strings,—
Taut miles of shuttling moonlight syncopate
The whispered rush, telepathy of wires.
Up the index of the night, granite and steel—
Transparent meshes—fleckless the gleaming staves—
Sibylline voices flicker, waveringly stream
As though a god were issue of the strings….

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