'Bridge Man' Explores City's Spans From Unique Perspective
On May 2, the Greater Astoria Historical Society hosted an event with Dave “Bridge Man” Frieder, a photographer who has scaled the highest and most dangerous vantage points of sixteen of New York City’s great bridges, shooting some of the most spectacular photos of these structures and surrounding landscapes ever produced.
Frieder has been involved with photography since age seven. As a young man he became attracted to the work of famous nature photographer Ansel Adams and later took photography workshops with Jeff Nixon and John Sexton who was once personal assistant to Adams. Another colleague at one of these workshops, who had also worked with Adams, advised Frieder to “put his excitement to work” on a subject he really cared about, which led Frieder to the idea of using his other talent as a gymnast and fearlessness of heights to take photographs of the city’s bridges in a way no one else had done previously.
On his website www.davefrieder.com, Frieder has photographs of himself atop the highest point of the Manhattan Bridge and straddling the main cable of the Throgs Neck. “I’m not a daredevil,” he said, “Safety is a top priority with me.”
Frieder refuses to use digital photo technology and relies solely on film that he develops himself. For many years he had unprecedented access to the city’s bridges from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Port Authority and AMTRAK but the September 11 terrorist attacks “put a big damper” on his work making it more difficult for him to get the necessary clearances.
Over the years Frieder has gotten to know the families of the men who built most of New York City’s bridges among them Chris Roebling, a descendent of John Augustus Roebling, the engineer who designed the Brooklyn Bridge.
The event's main focus was on Queens bridges including the Hell Gate, Triborough (Robert F. Kennedy) and recently renamed Ed Koch Queensborough Bridge, which Frieder said he would always know as just simply the Queensborough.
Frieder proceeded with a slide show that featured incredible photos of each bridge as well as other work he has done, like shooting from the top of the Coney Island Parachute Jump, a now defunct amusement park ride with a height of 262 feet. Frieder is greatly aided in his pursuits by 20 years of gymnastic training.
"I'm kind of like Spiderman," he said.
Frieder said he also learned a lot from ironworkers on where to safely grab on to a bridge at great heights.
When asked if it ever got hot on bridges at these heights, Frieder responded that at times it is like an oven because the steel that bridges are constructed with retains a lot of heat. Frieder was also asked if wind was ever a problem at such heights to which he replied only once on the Triborough where he could still hear a whistling in his ears six hours later.
Falcons that nest in the highest reaches of bridges have also attacked him on occasion. But over time he learned that they were only seeking to protect their babies.