What the Brooklyn Bridge Teaches Us About Beauty

I can’t help but believe that everyone who takes a photo on the Brooklyn Bridge has one of the exact same shot. Whether they be an artist with a crazy expensive Nikon or a tourist from Cleveland with a 1.3 megapixel camera phone, they all take the same picture.

At the bottom of the frame, extension cables connect to the tow37360_1345894936002_4212595_ner.  It does not matter what direction you are walking, East or West, the image looks the same.

It isn’t hard to imagine why people love this picture.  All together,  parallelograms and triangles and all kinds of shapes that you dreaded in high school geometry converge to create a celebration of symmetry. It’s elegant and complex . Sturdy yet hyponotic. It’s math really.  Just in its most beautiful possible form.

Naturally, there’s a lot of beautiful things to see from the Brooklyn Bridge. The Statue of Liberty. Lower Manhattan. The Empire State  Building and it’s cousin, the Chrysler. And yet on the Brooklyn Bridge, there isn’t much of a rush to get across. It is not just beautiful. It is beautiful enough.

Whenever we approach art, we look for freshness; a new approach to the common ways humans see the world around them. The fact that everyone in the world takes this same photograph should frustrate some, like hearing a musician use and reuse the same four chords to write a hit pop song.

And yet it’s not the case. It would be almost irresponsible not to take that picture. It’d be arrogant.  And it’d be that person’s loss:  to go across one of the City’s greatest places and miss its greatest sight.

Everyone admits that beauty is subjective. Maybe even more subjective than we can understand. It differs by culture and genetics and preference and perspective. Yet the Brooklyn Bridge argues that  we just aren’t that different. No matter where the photographer came from, their race, nationality, we all approach the Bridge the same way. We all find its most beautiful spot the same way. By looking up.

I’m sure there are those who overthink the Bridge. We all celebrate those who strive to see the world from their own point of view. That with their unique perspective, they’ll find something no one else can see. And of course we need those kind of people.  Those brave souls who will crawl over beams above cars underneath. Or lay on the ground. Wait hours for the right light or contort their bodies to find an undiscovered angle where the light and background mesh to find the perfect shot;  to find something everybody else has failed to see in the 100+ years the Brooklyn Bridge has been wowing its walkers.

But the Brooklyn Bridge isn’t asking anyone to try that hard. Just accept it. The perfect shot is the easiest one to find and capture. It requires the least amount of effort and it is the one that is the most mesmerizing. That’s rare and I like that. The Brooklyn Bridge teaches us that beauty doesn’t mean the most when it’s seen in a way no one else can share. Here,  the untrained and the expert are agreed. And everyone will leave it  knowing that they have seen exactly what they should have. There are those desperate to find beauty and those content to simply stumble upon it.  In a world that demands effort and struggle, here the beauty right in front of our face is the beauty we were looking for all along.


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