Each picture represents a house on the road. Some have only one inhabitant, some up to seven or eight. Some lie against one another, while some sit and stare off into the distance. Each mobile home is equipped with an array of daily objects to personalize and occupy the space: blankets, newspapers, drinks, and snacks among other household items.
Artist Alejandro Cartagena, over the course of an entire year, sat his camera atop a bridge overlooking Highway 85 to put together his exhibition, “The Car Poolers.” Like a spy, he pointed his camera down in order to peer into a little known-lifestyle. His photos garner intrigue and deliver significant insights.
Cartagena echoes a similar sentiment in a New York Times article, stating, “When I started to take the pictures from that point of view, that just made a whole different thing … 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.”
The bird’s eye view of the trucks enhances a vision of urban expansion, and the reality of segregation between the poor and the rich in Mexico, one that has been growing larger since the beginning of the so-called “War on Drugs.”
The photos are voyeuristic in nature. They peer into these men’s lives. Some of the men’s faces are obscured by blankets, others are preoccupied with newspapers or magazines. A few look up at Cartagena, smiling.
Though the viewer may be at times either intrigued or embarrassed staring into these images, the simple power of each shot cannot be denied.
The power of each shot lies in this dichotomy between the manliness of these men, and the emasculation of their situations. They sleep in the backs of these trucks. For these men, this is not a matter of choice. They inhabit these cars to maintain steady jobs. It is a way of living, or perhaps more accurately, surviving.
The curation of the exhibit only adds to the effect of the vivid photography. The photos are hung on stark white walls, in the forms of jagged shapes or simple rectangles. It’s the irregularity of this curation that mimics the irregularity of these men’s lives.
Each photo is an intimate peek into these workers’ lives. In one photo, there is nothing taking up the back end of the pick-up trucks, not a single object, besides the men themselves. Five workers fit themselves into the small space; tucking limbs in order to mold to the shape of the truck.
The exhibition is a raw and rugged look at humanity, and what it means to survive in the face of the never-ending struggles.
Though just a handful of photos, Cartagena’s exhibit is worth the visit. It’s in Walsh, so you won’t even need to carpool.
1221 36th Street, N.W.
12:00 – 7:00 pm Wed-Sun