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Photo Essay by Photographer Jamey Stillings Captures the Construction of a New Industrial Wonder
The Bridge at Hoover Dam. Photo: Jamey Stillings.

PHOENIX, AZ.- From the moment photographer Jamey Stillings first encountered the bridge at Hoover Dam he knew it was a subject he couldn’t ignore. Over the next two years, he visited the bridge 16 times documenting the progress and completion of the enormous structure that would eventually span the Colorado River . The resulting photo essay is the focus of a new exhibition opening at Phoenix Art Museum on August 13, 2011. The Bridge at Hoover Dam: Photographs by Jamey Stillings features more than 40 large format color photographs chronicling the creation of North America ’s longest single-span concrete arch bridge.

Officially named the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, the bridge is located roughly 1500 feet downstream of Hoover dam and is the central portion of the Hoover Dam Bypass project. Construction began in 2004 and was completed in 2010. The 1,905 foot long bridge spans the Black Canyon connecting Arizona and Nevada nearly 900 feet above the Colorado River . It is the first concrete-steel composite arch bridge in the United States and the second highest bridge in the country.

Photographing the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was a personal quest for Stillings. Between March 2009 and January 2011, he spent 39 days at the site taking photographs. He visited the bridge at all hours of the day and night, rented helicopters for aerial shots and worked closely with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Federal Highway Administration for permission to access restricted areas. Stillings’s overarching goal was to acknowledge the collective talents and labors of those who had built the bridge and to place the bridge within the historical context of Hoover Dam and the American West.

“Jamey recognized that the documentation of the creation of a structure greatly impacts how it is remembered in the annals of history and, for him, the story of the bridge was about the many people who made it possible: those who had envisioned the design, made plans for the construction, worked in the challenging desert environment and dedicated years to its completion,” commented Rebecca Senf, Norton Curator of Photography, Phoenix Art Museum. “His work offers a revealing portrait of the bridge by recording the construction for posterity and illuminating the structure’s impressive impact on the southwestern landscape.”

Stillings’s large-scale, jewel-toned photographs sumptuously capture the bridge’s impressive scale and grandeur. Early morning and nighttime photographs are rich with saturated color, while daytime images juxtapose the manmade structure’s shapes, lines and patterns against the natural beauty of Black Canyon .

“The photographs included in the exhibition are vivid and visually gratifying. They allow the viewer to dwell on the impressiveness of the bridge and to appreciate this amazing feat of engineering from a personal and passionate point of view,” commented Senf.

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