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Commuters drive over the bridge every day without noting the details of its construction; yet, every day, the bridge is photographed by countless tourists and visitors – who mostly want to capture its majestic splendour. The bright red-orange suspension bridge, across the San Francisco Bay, has been an icon of engineering and the city's most famous structure, since its inauguration 85 years ago.

However, like so many other architectural landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge has been “photographed to death”, as Michael Yuan says: “They’re often taken at similar spots, edited in similar ways, and all show the grandeur of the bridge.” He questioned the general perception, and challenged himself to find a new photographic approach to the bridge. This meant spending innumerable hours and days on the structure. “Over the past couple of years, I’ve made countless trips to this 1.7 miles of architectural wonder, to capture all the faces that have never been presented before,” he explains. “The bridge has many beautiful features that are neglected when it’s observed as a whole. It is composed of imposing towers, stylized street lights, gigantic cables, and much more.”

Yuan rediscovered the bridge from a passionately mathematical perspective: “To me, much of the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge comes from the fact that the design and visual details are very mathematically beautiful and perfect. I’ve always loved mathematics, and that precision really stood out to me. There are lines that remind me of maths plots; cascading shapes that make me think of geometry problems; and proportions that follow the Golden Ratio. Additionally, because of the location and size of the bridge, there’s minimal visual clutter, making it seem even more like a perfect mathematical diagram or equation.”

Consequently, Yuan’s amazing motifs reveal striking sections of the bridge, laid out in the book in a minimalist manner. This achieves an unusually surprising effect: colour, structure, surface, geometry and design come together in perfect form. On the pages, the construction presents itself as a graphic puzzle. The individual pieces shine red-orange in front of a bright blue sky; the black, cast by the shadows, and the yellow of the lamp heads, add marked accents. The only text included in the book is the hymn-like poem that the chief engineer, Joseph B. Strauss, dedicated to “his” bridge for its inauguration in 1937. The excerpt fragments that the photographer has selected from the structure are enhanced by the cascade of words in the poem: poetic and photographic elements fit together surprisingly well.

Whether the photographer's final statement is true – or not – may be judged by the viewer: “The bridge may be more beautiful when we examine its individual features, than when we view it as a sum of its parts.” This insight certainly makes the book worthy of becoming a bibliophile collector's item. (Ulrich Rüter)

Michael Yuan, The Bridge
104 pages, 72 colour pictures, 22.1 x 32.9 cm.
English, The Eriskay Connection (1st edition: 800)
© ilikecalculus.com

Michael Yuan

Mathematics was his favourite subject at school. Born in Canada, Yuan went to the San Francisco Bay Area, in 2015, to complete an internship. He is currently working as a software engineer in the field of autonomous transport. At the same time, he is a visual artist who challenges the common way of looking at the world: his work draws attention to places, people and things that have become increasingly invisible as the times and culture have changed. The Bridge is his first photo book, and was produced thanks to a Kickstarter campaign.

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