Photographing the Hawthorne Bridge got me out of my quarantine funk.

(Apr 2020) Melissa Toledo in front of her Hawthorne Bridge wall graphic photograph installed.

I'm a gig working Photographer in Portland, OR. My specialties are Brand Photography and Event Photography. And in that fateful month of March 2020, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, life as I knew it screeched to a stop. Hard-earned gigs were now either officially cancelled or indefinitely put on hold. I found myself looking at an empty screen, my husband is WFH in my photo studio, and my kid is finishing out 10th grade in the dining room.


Imagine my surprise when I got a text from Oregon Graphics about an assignment to photograph Portland's iconic Hawthorne Bridge. The final image would be an 11-ft wide x 4-ft tall wall graphic installed at the Astikos Lofts in Tigard, OR. I took a moment and thought about the situation. I knew I could social distance, wear my mask, and the spot I needed to go to is a lo-traffic area, so I said yes.


My assignment was to photograph and produce my own version of this bridge in black and white with few or no people. For my research, inspiration was easy to come by as this bridge was opened in 1910 and has been the subject of many photographers. I was excited that is was now my turn. Hoping to capture the Willamette River with tranquil water, I went out to photograph first thing in the morning. I did this for three days. Each time I went out, the lights were different, the clouds were different and the water was different. Each time I went out there was barely no one else around ... besides the homeless folks I had to walk by who were camping under the highway.


(Apr 2020) Rod Carlson, Owner of Oregon Graphics at the installation.

The final black and white image is beautiful, majestic, and surreal at the same time. For I managed to capture the Hawthorne Bridge in the beginning of the pandemic over tranquil waters in front of an empty downtown waterfront. It's like the city is standing still.