Photographed from below by Edouard Baldus, the Mulatière Bridge over the Rhône River appears monumental. The bridge represents the industrial progress of Second Empire France: one arch spans the entire length of the photographic frame, dwarfing the simple, rough-hewn barge moored in its shadow, which symbolizes the French past. The rubble at the bottom left suggests not ancient ruins but an active, modern construction site just out of the frame. The official-looking characters assembled atop the bridge contrast with the workers and observers on the riverbank. The image heralds progress, much like the railroad whose tracks are barely visible on the far bank; both represent a dramatic improvement in technology for France.
In July 1861 Baldus was commissioned to produce an album of views of the structures and environments along the railroad from Lyon to the Mediterranean. This albumen print was included in the album.