By Helen Anne Travis
The Car Poolers photo series landed photographer Alejandro Cartagena in the international spotlight. His work has appeared in galleries from Toronto to Mexico City. He's been featured in Slate, the New York Times and the Guardian.
Not bad for someone who didn't pick up a camera until he was in his mid-20s.
Global Yodel recently caught up with Alejandro to talk more about the inspiration behind his latest print, Urban Transportation 2. Read on to learn how a new subdivision in Monterrey, Mexico, catapulted Cartagena's career.
In the summer of 2011, photographer Cartagena spent three mornings a week hunched over the railing of a pedestrian footbridge crossing one of Monterrey, Mexico's busiest highways. His assistant stood guard as Alejandro photographed the cars below.
Monterrey's construction was booming. The government had recently subsidized mass subdivision projects on the outskirts of town. But without cars or access to public transportation, the owners of these new homes had to hitch rides in the beds of their colleagues' pickup trucks to get to jobs on the other side of town. This is illegal in Mexico.
"These are people who are psychologically excited about the idea of owning a house, but they're also mad because the developers told them there would be public transit," Alejandro said. "They're risking their lives, and they're risking getting caught by the transit police. But they have to do it."
Alejandro's aerial photos of the workers sleeping and reading the newspaper in the back of the trucks landed him in the international spotlight. He credits their popularity to the images' relatability. Everyone knows what it's like to hop into the bed of a pickup truck. Alejandro just changed the perspective. It doesn't hurt that he also included a few images of burly construction workers cuddled up with their colleagues.
"Humor always softens a social or political statement," Alejandro said.