Car Cooperation


Everyday, they climb into the backs of trucks to travel from metropolitan Monterrey to the wealthy northern suburbs where they work. Photographer Alejandro Cartagena’s subjects could spend up to two hours (via three or four different buses) if they tried the public transportation system. Instead, car-pooling has become a DIY community response to the absence of an economical and democratic bus network.

Car-pooling is a trademark of the American upper-middle class, synonymous with “soccer practice”, “girl scouts”, and other institutions of the suburban universe. But Cartagena focuses on carpoolers of another kind: Mexican laborers. His grandfather used to be one, fixing up fellow construction workers with jobs, gathering them in his home and driving everyone to work in the back of his truck, at no cost.


The passengers are mostly construction workers or gardeners, says Cartagena, and they sometimes smile and wave when he photographs them. They probably can’t help it, when they see the photographer’s peculiar way of getting the best shot. Cartagena documents car-pooling by hanging over a bridge, hovering overhead to get a bird’s-eye view of the trucks. Police watch with curiosity.

“I like how situations reveal the invisible private spaces within the public space”, explains the photographer.


At first glance, his project looks like an indiscriminate avalanche of images. But the creative process is disciplined and organic; Cartagena takes only one or two images per truck to avoid “the camera doing all the work”. From 7:00am to 9:30am every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, he’s at attention on a busy avenue, photographing the passing traffic. Cartagena’s unusual view of the world also makes him a witness to the odd and extraordinary: car crashes, drug deals, ambulances speeding the wrong way down a one-way street, cars and trucks full of strange objects, wandering animals…

Unfortunately, Cartagena has not yet found a way to document what may be the strangest thing on the thoroughfare for drivers and passengers alike– that guy dangling in the air with a camera!


See the full photo essay on the Lab