Photograph © Jeremy Wade Shockley 2011.
Throughout my younger life this “era” of truck has been a cornerstone of my character. I suppose it started with a truck my grandfather gave to me on my 16th birthday, an old warrior of a pick up, a “plain vanilla” 1974 Chevrolet. Not much to look at, but full of capable power, a work truck to the core. It nearly took my life and the lives of my two friends en route to a wilderness backpacking trip when high speeds turned to airborne theatrics worthy of early Hollywood film footage. I was just eighteen.
I replaced that truck soon after with a ’77 that would be my main mode of transportation for the next decade. A beautiful metal flake maroon color, with wing windows and a cassette deck that never let me down. That was the truck. Since I spent most of my twenties either living abroad or commuting to work on a bicycle it served its purpose for fishing trips, dates at the drive in movie theater, and the annual pilgrimage from Boulder, Colorado to my home in the mountains of Southwest Colorado. This truck made countless memories across the two lane blacktops from Taos to Moab during those youthful college years.
Now you are probably asking what does any of this have to do with photography?
Early in my career as a photojournalist i made a trip to Jackson, Wyoming to study under a host of talented pros in a week long photography workshop. With fuel costs at the time, I had arranged to rent a small car, a plan that unexpectedly fell through at the last minute. Under the circumstances, I drove the truck. Camera gear on the bench seat, and a brand new Tom Petty album for company. A cooler in the back full of beer and soda and a sleeping bag as I was planning to crash at my friend’s sisters apartment once I reached Teton county. I had it in my mind from the start to pursue an essay on cowboys and ranch life, with just under a week to make connections and create a portfolio of work worthy of the Summit’s talented instructors.
The first day was a bust. Driving the back roads of a predominately closed community just before sunrise on the second morning, I pulled my truck over to inspect a Texas longhorn edging along a fence line when I heard the indistinguishable sound of working cowhands. The sounds of animals accompanied by sharp whistles and shouts pierced the early morning air. I pulled the old Chevrolet around and pointed the pick up down a two lane dirt track that led to some outbuildings on the backside of a ranch. Dressed the part, I stepped into the mud and crossed the large field to make the acquaintance of the owner and his crew who had just brought in their cattle from pasture for vaccinations. Brad agreed to be photographed, and gave me the run down of their operation before remounting his horse.
I spent the week working with that small crew. Gaining access is key. The truck might not have been what got me in, but as I rumbled down the road on that foggy fall morning, I think it might have been as instrumental as my well worn Stetson in being given the go ahead to stick around and photograph what then became my Ranch LIfe series.
Character and trust certainly do lead to access. Access as we all know is everything in journalism.
So what about the picture above? Living in the mountains requires a lot of your vehicles, and this past year I decided it was time to reinvest in a good truck. Something to haul wood, take on the occasional fishing trip, and of course a great vehicle for photographing the Western landscapes and communities neighboring my home.
Nostalgia has always played a role in my thinking, so when I saw this truck for sale, I offered eight hundred dollars to the rancher and hauled it home. Needless to say, it needs a new transmission before I can drive it to my first rodeo.
I guess having one more project on my plate won’t hurt me – builds character right?