A bridge is situated on a highway that goes from the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo — across the United States border in Laredo, Texas — due south to Monterrey. In the early-morning hours, Alejandro Cartagena stood there, pointing his lens down at the passing cars, like a distracted spy.
He was peeking into the backs of the pickup trucks, where construction workers pile together on their way to earn an honest living. His photo series, ‘Car Poolers’ is an effort to peer inside these tiny worlds that straddle public and private.
When I started to take the pictures from that point of view, that just made a whole different thing open up, because there’s issues of intimacy or privacy being expressed in a public space. There’s a sense of the invisibility of the reality of so many people in Mexico that is popping out because of the images.
In the backs of these flatbeds, Cartagena sees hard workers, doing whatever is necessary to maintain a legitimate job, pay a mortgage and survive in an acceptable way.
It is illegal to ride in the bed of a pickup truck — a relatively minor infringement — but the ride in winter is cold and crowded, and a worker’s space, along with his sense of manliness, is challenged.
There is this thing about them being workers and the masculinity of them just disappearing. They have to survive. They have to work. So it doesn’t matter if they are all spooning into each other. I am sure they wouldn’t say spooning with their work buddy. It has to be done in order to make things work.
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So what do you make of these images? I find them fascinating, but at the same time it feels voyeuristic to view them… there’s a sense of intrusion, the notion of straddling what’s public and private…
Share your thoughts!
To view more of Alejandro Cartagena’s work, click here.