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Peter Stackpole (American 1913 – 1997)

Updated: Dec 1, 2022


Tower with Cable Saddles in Place and Catwalk Support Cables, 1935, 5 ½ x 7 ¼ inches, unsigned, perhaps printed later, from The Bridge Builders A Portfolio of Photographs, illustrated in Stackpole, Peter, The Bridge Builders Photographs and Documents of the Raising of the San Francisco Bay Bridge 1934-1936, Pomegranate Art Books (1984), plate 58


$2000


Bridgemen, 1935, 8 ½ x 5 ¾ inches, signed and dated lower right on mat, perhaps printed later, from The Bridge Builders A Portfolio of Photographs


SOLD


Out Over the Side of the Catwalk, 1935, 9 ½ x 6 ½ inches, signed and dated lower right on mat, perhaps printed later, from The Bridge Builders A Portfolio of Photographs, illustrated in Stackpole, Peter, The Bridge Builders Photographs and Documents of the Raising of the San Francisco Bay Bridge 1934-1936, Pomegranate Art Books (1984), plate 55


$2000



At the Top of a Tower Bridgemen Prepare to Push a Preassembled Section of Catwalk into Place, 1935, 9 ¼ 6 ¼ inches, unsigned, perhaps printed later, from The Bridge Builders A Portfolio of Photographs, illustrated in Stackpole, Peter, The Bridge Builders Photographs and Documents of the Raising of the San Francisco Bay Bridge 1934-1936, Pomegranate Art Books (1984), frontispiece


$2000


About the Photographs

These four works come from Peter Stackpole’s series The Bridge Builders A Portfolio of Photographs, which documented the construction of the Bay Bridge which connects San Francisco and Oakland. Construction of the bridge began in the depths of the Great Depression in July, 1933, and concluded in November, 1936. At the young age of twenty-one, Peter Stackpole, was two years out of high school and jobless when a chance encounter changed the trajectory of his life. While riding the ferry between San Francisco and Oakland, Stackpole admired one of the rising towers of the bridge and when he loitered after landing at Pier 24, one of the bridgemen who noticed Stackpole’s camera asked, “Why don’t you shoot some pictures of the job, kid?” The bridgemen, Joe Walton, suggested that Stackpole hop a ride on one of the launches and get to work with his Model C Leica camera. Stackpole agreed and spent the better part of the next two years photographing the huge engineering achievement. During those two years, Stackpole snapped hundreds of photographs of all aspects of the construction and the men who built the bridge, including some of the twenty-four men who lost their lives. When completed, the Bay Bridge became the longest bridge and stood as a West Coast rival to the Empire State Building which became the tallest building in the world. Stackpole’s sleek portfolio bears comparison to the work of New York’s Lewis Hine who documented the “Skyboys” who built the Empire State Building. Both portfolios captured the optimism and engineering audacity that pervaded the massive construction projects which helped drag the country out of the Great Depression.


About the Artist

Peter Stackpole was the son of artists, Ralph Stackpole and Adele Barnes Stackpole. He was educated in the San Francisco Bay area and Paris and grew up under the influence of his parents’ friends and peers, including Dorthea Lange, Edward Weston and Diego Rivera. In 1935, twenty-five of Stackpole’s photographs of the Bay Bridge were exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Art. This led to several freelance projects and in 1936, Stackpole was hired as one of the four initial photographers at LIFE Magazine, where he worked from its founding until 1961. During his time with LIFE, Stackpole worked with a variety of subjects from glamourous Hollywood elites to the ordinary lives of the working class and the horrors of military conflicts. Stackpole’s portraiture of Hollywood stars is cited as helping create the cult of the celebrity that continues today. Stackpole was LIFE’s chief Hollywood photographer from 1938 until 1951. Stackpole’s work was often selected for the cover of LIFE. His photographs were exhibited at several institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Oakland Museum.



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