Daily Bookmark: Barbara Mensch’s “In the Shadow of Genius” is a love letter to the minds behind Brooklyn Bridge

Photo courtesy of Fordham University Press

Have you ever wondered what makes a genius? Maybe while meditating on Einstein’s theory of relativity, viewing photos of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling or listening to “The White Album.” For photographer Barbara Mensch, it was the decades she spent living in a top-floor studio abutting the Brooklyn Bridge which led her to seek a deeper understanding of “the ingredients and characteristics needed to achieve a work of lasting significance,” and to develop a lifelong fascination with the bridge’s designers, John, Washington and Emily Roebling. 

Mensch spent years shooting the bridge’s awe-inspiring structure, and has compiled her photographs, along with groundbreaking historical research and a hefty dose of personal memoir, into her latest book, “In the Shadow of Genius: The Brooklyn Bridge and its Creators,” on sale now from Fordham University Press. The book includes previously unreleased letters, notes and drawings from the bridge’s father-and-son architect team, John and Washington Roebling, as well as never-before-seen photos of its internal structure. 

Mensch is the author of two previous books, including 2009’s “South Street,” which documents the transition of the waterfront around the Fulton Fish Market from “a precious last vestige of historic Gotham” to a cleaned-up corporate stronghold. Her words and photographs have appeared in publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Village Voice and many others. Mensch is currently collaborating with producer Spike jones on a TV miniseries based on “In the Shadow of Genius.”

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