OAKLAND -- Joseph Blum is often asked if he photographed the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and the original Bay Bridge.
"I tell them I'm old, but I'm not that old," Blum, 72, a wiry, silver-haired retired shipfitter said, laughing. What he did photograph is the construction of the new Bay Bridge eastern span, now in a breathtaking collection called "The Bridge Builders," which opens to the public Thursday at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission offices in downtown Oakland.
Blum's 15-year project was obviously fueled by a deep respect for blue-collar laborers.
He captured pile drivers working well below sea level in the '90s, not far from the Alameda shipyard where he once labored. He braved catwalks 500 feet above the San Francisco Bay chasing ironworkers, many a third his age, as they erected the new span's signature tower.
The only audience that Blum wants to please is the group of people who built the bridge.
"If they like it, I don't care what anyone else thinks. It's all about them," he said.
His images echo the iconic bridge construction photographs of the famed 1930s Life magazine photographer Peter Stackpole, on display three short blocks away from the MTC at the Oakland Museum of California.
The work of Stackpole, who died in 1997, is "one of the most important groups of documentary photographs by one of the most important documentary photographers of the 20th century," said Drew Johnson, the museum's curator of photography and visual culture, who created the exhibit. The photos were nearly destroyed when the 1991 Oakland hills fire gutted Stackpole's archive.
The opportunity to view these two stunning shows -- made eight decades apart -- is short, as the "Peter Stackpole: Bridging the Bay" exhibit closes Sunday. Blum's show will hang through the end of May.
What: Community Art Program presents constructing the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge: a solo exhibition of photographs by Joseph A. Blum
When: Exhibit ongoing through May 31, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays; reception Thursday, 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Where: Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, Third floor, 101 Eighth St., Oakland, at the Lake Merritt BART station
Info: Brenda Kahn, MTC: 510-817-5773, firstname.lastname@example.org. Joseph A. Blum: 415-648-0474, email@example.com, www.josephablumphotography.com