Dave, The Bridge Man – Photographer

My Passion of Photography

“On Top of The World”, Dave Frieder atop the Manhattan Bridge

I have been photographing New York’s bridges since 1993. The precision half of my photographic work is my German side and the artistic half is my Hungarian side. Both of them combined seems very effective.

I have been involved with photography since I was 7 years old. My first camera was a Kodak “Brownie.” Ansel Adams first camera was also a “Brownie.” I also used the early box cameras that had large negatives. Not having an enlarger at the time, these cameras were nice to have. My photography varied through the years and after borrowing everyone’s camera for many vacation trips, I decided to buy my own 35 mm camera. At the same time my father had a poster print of Ansel Adams “Moonrise.” He pointed out to me, look at this amazing image! I looked at it carefully and thought it was okay. But after being at my parents’ house so many times, I kept looking at the poster and it began to raise my interest. I said to myself, wow! This image had to be manipulated. It could not have occurred naturally. Then I said to myself, I have heard about this fellow, Ansel Adams and I must find out more about his work.

So I called the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite National Park and they had me contact Jeff Nixon, who was Ansel’s workshop assistant. After talking with Jeff for about one year, he invited me to take a few workshops with him. I spent two weeks in Sornora, Mono Lake and Bodie, an old ghost town. A year later I met John Sexton, who was Ansel’s personal assistant for many years. John as well as Jeff’s work really inspired me and John invited me to take some workshops with him. On one of his workshops I met a fellow named Morley Baer. Morley himself was a very accomplished photographer and had worked with Ansel and Edward Weston.

Morley’s work was very beautiful and his printing skills were just amazing! When we (the group) were in his Darkroom he called me over to him and asked my opinion on this print he just developed. I felt he had a certain liking to me. John offered criticism of my work as being too big and not having a dramatic impact. Morley however liked my work very much. I did, however, respect John’s opinion and it inspired me work at my photography much harder! Some other people that had a great influence on my thought process and work are other members of Ansel’s family and Othmar Ammann and members of his family. Othmar Ammann was the engineer who designed the great George Washington Bridge.

Dave Frieder on the main cable of Throgs Neck Bridge.

It was not until I purchased a photograph from Morley and in a letter he wrote, Dave, your photographs reflect much work and understanding. Put your excitement to work on a subject that you care dearly about. This made me think, what can I do that no one else has done and in a different way? Then I remembered that John had taken his 4×5 camera to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, Ron Wisner, who manufactures the large field cameras I use, was on the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Their photos were magnificent!

In the very beginning I had no idea on how to start but things just went along and everything seemed to work itself out. Most people can’t believe my fearlessness of heights. I vividly remember when my grandfather took me to the top of the Empire State Building and all I wanted to do I look straight down! My grandfather however was scared to death! I suppose from this experience I had no fear of heights! In fact, I just loved being up so high.

My work on this long-term project has been exhilarating and fascinating as I began to study bridges and began to realize they are engineering marvels. It came to my attention that in order to be able to capture a subject on film, paper, or canvas, one must understand your subject fully. For me, being able to “Feel The Steel” was a way of understanding how and why bridges work and function. My vision of the great structures was getting better every year! For most of my images I take on the Bridges, I use a Hasselblad Camera in conjunction with a Ken-Lab “Gyro” stabilizer.

Ansel Adams  His work and his instruction have had a tremendous impact on my career as a “Fine Art” architectural and landscape photographer. His incredible vision, his insight, his amazing darkroom skills have all contributed to his beautiful photographs. When Frieder saw his “Moonrise” photograph and realized it was made through his “inner vision” he knew then, photography is what he wanted to do more than anything else!

Jeff Nixon – Frieder met Jeff after talking to the Ansel Adams Gallery in California to learn more about the great photographer. Jeff was Ansel’s workshop assistant for many years. After talking to him for some time Frieder met him and took a couple of workshops with him. Jeff has taught him to listen and understand the subjects that he photographs.

John Sexton – Frieder was introduced to John by Jeff Nixon. He had known of John’s work for years but always wanted to meet him. He had the great pleasure of meeting John on a one to one basis. He was printing photographs for potential customers and Frieder was amazed at his technical and printing skills. He truly is a “Master Printer”. Frieder had taken several workshops with him and in the beginning John offered some constructive criticism of his work. Frieder listened, learned and was not going to give up! This made him work ten times harder and he thanks John for those comments that day!

Morley Baer – Frieder met Morley during a John Sexton Photographic Workshop. Morley is a great influence on his photographic career. Frieder was very much intrigued by his work and his visual sense. Morley made a statement in a letter to him that basically lead him to photographing the great bridges of New York City. He told Frieder that his photographs reflect much work and understanding. He told him, “Dave, put your excitement to work on a subject that you care most dearly about.” Frieder will always remember Morley for his words of wisdom!

Othmar Ammann – Frieder never had the opportunity to meet the greatest bridge builder of all time, but he does have the distinct pleasure of photographing all the great bridges he designed. Frieder’s favorite bridge of all, one that Ammann designed and built is the George Washington Bridge. It was this bridge Frieder crossed more than any other bridge and is always in awe looking at its incredible steelwork. It is truly an engineering masterpiece. Othmar Ammann was an artist in his own right. What Ansel Adams did with photography, Othmar Ammann did with Civil Engineering.