Williamsburg Bridge: Art on Art

It inspired Depeche Mode’s video and album art (respectively, Policy of Truth and World in My Eyes); appeared in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die; and more recently, in July 2011, set the stage for an aerialist who performed on it (illegally). I’m talking about the Williamsburg bridge, New York’s only suspension bridge that has been standing for over 100 years.

The Williamsburg Bridge

I recently discovered the beauty (and benefit) of the bridge after walking across it, from Williamsburg to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Why hadn’t I discovered the bridge’s walkway before? I thought it was only used by cyclists, who I’d regularly see through the window of the M or J subway, which I traveled on to and from work. I guess I must have been looking at the bike lane, which is separate to the walk lane on the other side of the bridge.

Walkway – from Williamsburg side

On a beautiful day, walking across the Bridge beats taking the subway. The Manhattan views are stunning – to one side you can see the Manhattan skyline dominated by the Empire State Building; to the other, the Manhattan Bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge behind it. Returning to Brooklyn, I see a more industrial view (note the now defunct Domino Sugar factory to your left) and the walkway drops you off at the doorstep of Peter Luger’s Steakhouse. Seeing the sunset from the bridge is a must.

Skyline Views

I have posted on Street Art in the past, and the Williamsburg Bridge is a great canvas for it. Street art covers the bridge’s walkways, mostly in the form of stencil art. I’ve walked over the bridge a number of times now, and every time I have seen new art. Unfortunately, graffiti has defaced many of the bridge’s plaques. Borderline art? Perhaps.

Graffiti

In Williamsburg, the Bridge is a backdrop to the neighbourhood’s streetscape. In the words of Depeche Mode, “Let me show you the world in my eyes…”

A Williamsburg Streetscape

Is this Art?

Moscow, Moscow…

Nite Owl Repetition

Ink Art

Coloured Tile Installation

Forest Footprints

Subway in Passing

The Walkway

Accidental Graffiti Art Installation

Enroute to Williamsburg

Coloured Squiggles

Nighttime View

An Artist’s Interpretation

Grilled Sunset View – Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges

Moonlit Gondolier

Wise Words

The Dividing Line

Goodnight…

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254 thoughts on “Williamsburg Bridge: Art on Art

    • Thanks Jenny! The street art abounds here, and there’s so much more. The camera has really helped me discover the details 🙂 Thanks so much for the compliment about the night photo – I really love that one too 🙂

  1. The shot’s are great, drawing you right into the picture frame with their colour and ‘personality’. Really nice series Marina, and I like how you captured some of the smaller details…

    • Thank you! That’s me and the Nikon, snapping away on the Bridge as people jogged and biked past me whilst I was kneeling to the ground to get a shot! I appreciate your comment a lot!

  2. These shots are amazing! I hope I will visit US one day soon! I want to rent a car and drive around to see all the amazing things you have! The bridge is so cool and it’s an art itself and all the street art makes it so fun to look at and to walk through probably! 😀

    • Thank you Kristina! I hope you visit soon too! Yes, the Bridge is so different to the Brooklyn Bridge, that seems incomparably busy and ‘clean’. Williamsburg Bridge seems to reflect the character of its adjoining neighbourhoods, both of which are really fun to actually visit and stroll through. In NY, a subway and walking and buses take precedence over a car! Parking is crazy!!

  3. Good shots. I almost missed the moon in your twilight shots. But then again I didn’t. It’s a very good documentary. With graffiti so common most New Yorkers tend to ignore it as they would be oblivious to litter on the street.

    • Thanks Victor! Yes, the moon was but a speck (that’s the closest I could zoom in on it!) I think having a camera has made me notice things more, so I completely understand what you mean about that!

  4. Fabulous article and well done photos!! People need to be more aware of their surroundings like you are. They are missing out on the little beauties in their everyday life! Well done!

    • Thank you! Don’t worry – NY isn’t going anywhere so you may have a chance to live here again soon? 🙂 Thank you for the comment about the photos – I am trying with the new Nikon.

    • Thanks Val! A walk along the bridge whilst the weather is warm is a good plan. You can enjoy the Lower East Side and Williamsburg on both ends – both great neighbourhoods for a coffee and a bite to eat! Re the graffiti – I have no idea. Though I did include a link in the start of the article to check out how the aerialist illegally climbed up the bridge to perform. Take a look for an idea 🙂

  5. I was born and raised in city of New York. Many of the places you took photos, I have been there, walked there. It was 1959 when I left the city and joined the Air Force. Your pictures do justice to my old neighborhoods. Congrats on “Fleshly Pressed.”

    • Thank you John. Wow – you are from the area when it was much unlike what it is today. I would love to know your thoughts on ‘then’. Thank for your comment on my photos – that means alot to me. And I was so flabbergasted when I read that I was Freshly Pressed. What fun!

  6. When was the Williamsburg repainted? I remember walking it when I lived in New York, and it was an ugly grey color (I think it was grey). I like the new color. It makes me miss New York. Great photos.

  7. Hi! I have to convince my maker that she has to get out of her depression (from being screened for ADHD) and get out to the wonderful city, where she is an exchange studies for a year. I want to take pictures of the bridge too, though probably not as good as yours! xoAdie

    • Thank you for your comment – and my pleasure. That is what i enjoy about blogging – learning about the world through words and photos. I am glad the photos showed you a little bit of New York 🙂

  8. Great pictures of the bridge. All the street art really seems to show the character of the people who frequent the bridge and live in the area. And love the attention to detail. Whenever I make my next trip up north, I’ll be sure to make a visit & see it for myself. 🙂

    • Thanks so much! I am so happy that you’ll include the Bridge in your itinerary when the time comes. The character of both neighbourhoods (from where it starts/ends) are reflected on the Bridge, which I love too!

  9. NY just absolutely amazed me when I was there and thank you so much for the photos – I love the art on the bridge, it’s the small details like this that create the atmosphere of the place rather than the usual happy snap from the distance. Cheers Sue in Oz.

    • Thank you Sue! A fellow Aussie – how’s the weather Down Under? I agree with you – especially after receiving my camera, I have started noticing details. Thank you for visiting my post 🙂

    • Thank you! I was going to title it, ‘Art on Art against Art’ as there is alot of street art that frames the Bridge from the ground in Williamsburg… but that may have been superfluous. Thank you for your comment 🙂

    • It is very true – it is easy to glaze over and not notice the details of your everyday surroundings. I am definitely going to document the Brooklyn Bridge when I walk across it again! Thanks for visiting the post 🙂

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment 🙂 The winter season is so good this year, so i would say – do it now! Spring would be amazing for it, though I am sure more people would be thinking the same thing! And yeah – Go NY! Thanks so much!

  10. Great photos! I just moved to New York City from California, specifically to Washington Heights… I’ve been to NYC times before but haven’t yet had the chance to explore Brooklyn. Your post has put “walking the Willamsburg bridge” at the top of my to-do list now that I have the chance to live in the city! Can’t wait 🙂

    • Hi! Welcome to NYC. I moved from LA one year ago actually, though I did live in NYC 3 years before too. Williamsburg is a must see – you can take the East River ferry from 34th street straight over, and walk the Bridge back (or vice versa). The L subway (Bedford Ave) stop is also a way to get there. Enjoy your time in the city!!

  11. I love these. Never heard of the bridge, but makes me want to visit New York more than ever. I’m in Bristol, named as the place of the bridge, which was built by James Bridges, whose family I have written about so I am a bridge junky of sorts. But people think of them as a means to get places, but they link communities, are in themselves community spaces, and they are incredible monuments to human ingenuity. As the welsh saying goes, ‘If you will be a leader, be a bridge’. Or maybe just cross one.

    • Hi! I am so glad to have introduced you to the Williamsburg Bridge! I completely agree with you about connecting communities as the Williamsburg Bridge does just that. I hope you get to see it soon. That’s a good quote by the way. Thank you for your comment 🙂

  12. Great pictures of an often-overlooked (in my opinion) bridge. I haven’t walked across the Williamsburg Bridge since the mid-’90s, when the steps on the Manhattan side were covered in (real) gold leaf and junkies would shoot up at the top of them.

    • Hi, thank you! You saw the bridge before it looked like this as I believe the walkways replaced the stairs. And, I have heard stories about the neighbourhoods back then – on the Manhattan side and the Williamsburg side. The Williamsburg Bridge rivals the other bridges for its character. Maybe it is best kept under wraps!

  13. Sweet!

    You brought me into your vision. Such wonderful imagery, and I mean in all aspects. Keen eyes. I had fun! You inspire, too.

    Thanks for sharing. I had sincerely had fun!

  14. great post. walking over the williamsburg bridge is so amazing. the views and all the street art you can find. i loved it. shame most people only walk over brooklyn bridge.

    • Hi, and thanks! I hear you about the Brooklyn Bridge taking the spotlight. That said, maybe part of Williamsburg’s charm is that it isn’t as glorified. That means, less crowds and more time to look at the street art on the ground 🙂

  15. Marina, I just recently relocated to California after living in NYC for three years, I miss it terribly! I am originally from Cali, but became a NYC’er in heart and soul. I was thrilled to stumble upon your blog and have to say, though I had ridden my bike over the Williamsburg bridge many times (lived in Brooklyn too) I had never quite seen it this way before. Thanks!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I am so happy to be able to share the images with others. It’s in the details sometimes and I guess what you may have noticed as a bike rider, I missed as a walker 🙂 Having lived in an Clemente and LA, I miss Cali alot. I understand your comment about a New Yorker in heart and soul. Maybe not so much in ‘climate’. Enjoy the warmer shores!

  16. Hello,
    Very nice pictures you give us from your blog. These photos can help us to visit virtually these wonderful areas. I’m dreaming to visit them.

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment. That is exactly what I hope the posts and images do – allow people to traveling “without moving”. And, to give ideas when they are able to visit! Happy dreaming 🙂

  17. Wonderful bridge life shots. My hometown, Portland, OR has 14 bridges if you ever want to check them out. The Wiilamette River goes through our beautiful city and the mighty Columbia River flows to the sea.The coast offers more bridges. -I am a bridge lover as well!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment Gail! Whilst it may be a bridge that shows its character through the street art, it is important in linking neighbourhoods together and unifying NY. Thanks for visiting my post!

  18. A really great set here woman ! Some compositions with great potential here. I do have a couple of thoughts on the last shot though. I can see there is a person there, but all the pillars and wires and stuff really takes the focus away from the real photography story your trying to tell the viewer. The story here is the people, and they living on it. Really great though, really great. Open for discussions on my blog. Coming a tutorial soon on proper composition of people on bridges and in other semi-industrialized environment, you should definitely take a look.

    • Hi there! Thanks for your thoughtful comment. In that last shot, my intent was to focus on the bridge and on the beauty of its architecture. As I titled the post – art on art – my goal was to show the street art on another form of art – the bridge. The last shot was to show the details of the bridge – its lights, the patterns of its steel rails, the juxtaposition of its colours at dusk. I do get your perspective about the people and that is an undertone of the blog post as the bridge’s character is reflective of the neighbourhood. I’ll take a look at your post though. Thanks for letting me know!

  19. hi;) hearts at the photography! Would it be okay if you help us “LIKE” this page: http://www.facebook.com/NOMADICRACE.TEAMTEAM pleeeeeaaaaaseee? we are participating in a 5day 4night camp around Singapore called The NoMadic (Make A Difference) Race- Green Edition. Yes, with our big bags sleeping near beaches, trying our hardest to complete tasks with limited transport and budget on food. do help us “LIKE” the FB page?;( we would really appreciate it 🙂 Thank you:) oh and we are most probably posting photos around singapore! 😀

  20. This is a really beautiful collection of photographs. I’ve always loved graffiti, and I think that your gallery is a wonderful representation of the artists in NY. It’s really wonderful that someone can see the beauty in other people’s art, even if it is something that many people won’t see as art… XD (Hoped that made sense)

    • Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. I completely understand – street art and graffiti are controversial and there has got to be something said for those neighbourhood’s that embrace it. Take a look, if you have time, of the post I did on 5Pointz in Queens NY. Hopefully the building won’t be torn down as it is a safe haven for global graffiti artists to showcase their art. Let me know what you think! Link is: http://wp.me/p1YdU5-bH

  21. Lovely stuff – thanks for sharing.

    Some great shots in there. And while I do believe that graffiti is a great art form, like conventional and all forms of art, there are those untalented or such who deface and/or spoil the reputation of something otherwise special – just because.

    Much as I loved most though, the ‘escape from ny’ one was my favourite for a huge variety of reasons. Thanks again.
    Cheers.

    • Hi! Thank you. I agree as I think there is a proper way to display street art whilst being respectful of the surrounding environment. Escape from NY is a good one – I am sure it could hit home for a number of people 😉 Thanks again!

  22. I used to ride that bridge every day to work; it’s only been 6 months since I left the city and most of what you shot is brand new to me. Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s helping to fill the Brooklyn-sized hole I still have inside me. XD

    • Hi! I am glad it inspired and brought back some old (and new) memories. I’m sure that there is a future visit in your horizons so the Bridge will be waiting for you. Thanks for visiting the post 🙂

  23. Beautiful images! I walked the Queensboro bridge over the summer, and have done Brooklyn a few times. This is definitely on my list!

    • I am so glad Joe because it is completely different to those two bridges. All are beautiful in their own right, but I have a soft spot for the Williamsburg! Enjoy it when you go 🙂 Thank you!

  24. Not sure which photo I love the most! Maybe the squiggles (they remind me of cool smeary effect you can get photographing traffic with a long shutter time), maybe the accidental-ness of it all. Great shots and thoughtful captions!

  25. Thank you everyone for viewing this post – for your likes and your comments. It was apropos timing for the Freshly Pressed page, as today – December 19 – is the anniversary of the Bridge’s ‘Opening Day’. The second bridge constructed to cross the East River, the Williamsburg Bridge was officially opened on December 19, 1903. So, Happy Opening Day!

  26. It’s good that you can manage to get a record of such “street art” as it so often is fleeting – there one day and gone the next. They are after all an expression of today and often just on the day and a true “sign of our times”. It’s also a huge plus that you take such excellent photographs.
    It would be interesting to revisit some of these sites to see the changes, sometimes art on art and times move on.
    Great post and looking forward to more.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I had only started to photograph the street art with my point and shoot a few months ago, and then when I received my DSLR, my interest was further intrigued (and escalated). I appreciate that you liked the photos. I will need to compile a post that accounts a quarterly pilgrimage throughout the seasons to show the changes in art. I am happy to have shared this first installment with you and glad that street art is appreciated by neighbourhoods and those interested 🙂

  27. This is a fantastic set of photos Marina. I really like them a lot. I saw this bridge from the river during our obligatory boat tour while on vacation some years back. I never got the chance to get up close. Now I know not to miss the chance next time I’m in New York.

    • Hi! Thanks for your comment and I am so glad to have shown you a side to the bridge that cannot be seen from ground level. The art was a surprise to me too and I must admit, it is my fave NYC bridge. I love Williamsburg (Brooklyn) and the Lower East Side (Manhattan), and the Bridge is a further reflection of these neighbourhoods. Looking forward to seeing your photos from your next NYC trip! Thanks again 🙂

  28. Pingback: Williamsburg Bridge « fotomind

  29. I really admire your photos of the Williamsburg Bridge. Catching the bridge at so many different angles, gives us such a wonderful portfolio of this magnificent piece of architecture. It helps those of us who have not been there in person to understand its complexities and personality.

    • Hi Judy – thank you so much for your comment. The outdoor gallery on the bridge was a surprise to me as was the beautiful architecture of it, itself. I am glad to have shared it and so happy that you could experience it through the post. Thank you!

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  31. Pingback: The Good Old Brooklyn Bridge… | Marina Chetner

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