Daily Picture Show

To Understand Truckers, Two Photographers Become Truckers

Wind-swept hair, the vast open road, infinite possibility. It sounds great — but is the great American road trip all it's cracked up to be?

"Not in an 18-wheeler," Frank Tribble laughed over the phone. The photographer speaks from recent experience. About two years ago, he and his wife Tracey Mancenido, also a photographer, decided to drop their lives, attend truck driving school, and hit the road. Tribble, the son of a truck driver, wanted to know more about the elusive culture that moves America — and figured the only way to understand it was to live it.

"These guys and women," he explained, "they're like the backbone of our economy." To that his wife added, "What we wanted to do ... was step away from the stereotypes of truck driving. ...¬†We all have an idea of what a truck driver's like when we're a kid — but we don't really know much about them."

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To get a better picture, pardon the pun, Tribble and Mancenido spent a year and change on the road producing Hurry Up & Wait, a series now on display at New York City's Sasha Wolf Gallery.

"Everyone has this idea of a big, overweight, burly man who's really rough and raw and probably uneducated," Mancenido explained. "But that wasn't the case, that's not what we saw. There wouldn't be a stereotype if they didn't exist, but there were also many extremely educated — college-educated — people, who wanted to be truck drivers. They wanted the freedom. Or who lost their jobs and didn't know what else to do."

A recent Reuters report says that a shortage of truckers suggests an improving economy. But back in 2008, when Tribble and Mancenido were on the road, truckers made up one of the largest occupations in the U.S., with more than 3 million jobs. That's a lot of people in mobile purgatory — a lot of people we might never really see, except maybe through the car window.

Hurry Up & Wait is a pretty benevolent portrait of the trucker culture. Still, the couple had some interesting stories from their time on the road. Like the ways in which they were received as a multiethnic couple. Or the things they heard on the CB radio. But that, they reiterated, misses the point. In Tribble's words, their task was to portray "the integrity" of trucker life.

Hurry Up & Wait also paints a pretty lonely picture of trucker culture. What do they do for entertainment — for hours on end of driving toward nothing in the middle of nowhere? According to Tribble, they listened to a lot of NPR.

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