Marilyn Bridges

(1948) American
Marilyn Bridges


The photographs of Marilyn Bridges function as both art and information, personal expression and documentation. For the past decade, Bridges has combined photography with her passion for flying in order to preserve what she refers to as "the messages of humankind." Written on the earth and covering the reach of time from prehistoric to the present day, these markings and monuments form a complex tapestry of human culture, recording both our sacred and secular lives. Bridges's work has scientific value, but it is also driven by her personal vision and the exhilaration of flight. As the plane banks, she controls the angle of her approach to retain details while revealing the larger complexity of the landscape. Bridges prefers the light of early morning or late afternoon when the sun creates long and distinctive shadows. These shadows enhance the three-dimensionality of what lies below and their patterns are integrated as defining elements in the photographs. Many of the earliest earth works photographed by Bridges are impossible to decipher from the ground. By legend, they were not built to be seen by the makers but by their gods. Others are the result of ritualistic acts, meant to forge a connection with the earth. These sites are mysterious places whose purpose and meaning we may never know. Others are monuments to the divinity of kings and the power of nations, built to impress and inspire the earthbound. In the contemporary rural landscape, Bridges depicts the timeless acts of farming and grazing. Except for the occasional machine, these scenes often appear as we might imagine our ancestors to have lived. When photographing our cities, Bridges gives them a majesty and monumentality that connect them with the architectural achievements of ancient times. However, she also shows us a contemporary landscape filled with the evidence of industrialization. For Bridges, our factories and congested highways do not reflect progress, so much as our dislocated relationship to the earth and environment. Marilyn Bridges, photographer, pilot and explorer, illuminates the bonds between the mark-makers of 3,000 B.C. and the builders of our modern cities. Ancient or contemporary, Bridges's landscapes serve the dual role of interpreting the power of extraordinary sites and creating visual records that may prove to be the only means of preserving these sites against the eroding elements of time and neglect. Bridges's work itself is about time, both geological and human. Through her photographs she sketches the history of man. Yet, rarely do humans appear in her images. Rather, like an archaeologist, she attempts to define a culture through the traces that remain. Some have great importance while other traces are without significant distinction. Yet, all reflect their creators' worlds and often the achievements of their physical, intellectual and spiritual powers. Willis Hartshorn, Director, International Center for Photography New York City Marilyn Bridges's personal work has been shown in over 300 exhibitions worldwide and is included in over 80 museums and private collections. She is also a much sought after aerial landscape photographer with clients in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Her photographs have appeared in major magazines, including Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveler, Life, Archaeology, Smithsonian and The New York Times.
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