Thursday, August 13, 2009

How do you photograph a taco truck?

Untitled, Vallejo, California, April 2008.

Press the shutter. Yeah, I know. Perhaps the better question would be how do you make an interesting picture of a taco truck? I've been obsessing with this question all week. Four days ago, I received an email invitation to join a group show that would mark the opening of a new local art gallery. It's my first photo assignment ever: to document Oakland's taco trucks as part of a series on local kitchens. I was thrilled at the mere idea of an assignment that I said yes immediately in spite of the fact that I've never seen a taco truck in Oakland. Actually I've never seen a taco truck anywhere, not even in Mexico; save once, when my brother-in-law rented one for his son's birthday party (pictured above, unremarkably).

Perhaps I'm just oblivious to taco trucks. Thank goodness for Google, I learned that taco trucks are indeed all over the Fruitvale district of East Oakland, and as I mapped out their locations for the shoot, my anxiety deepened. So I did what any 21st century man would do: I posted the question on Facebook. A sampling of the answers I got:
Take it from the POV of the taco.

Park it on a RR crossing and wait for the magic moment.

Wait 'til they sell chow mein.

I take it you wish to capture the essence of the taco truck, transcend ego separation and achieve oneness with the thing itself. To do that, you must be prepared to spend years in quiet contemplation of taco trucks. Sorry, there are no shortcuts. This is why there are no famous pictures of taco trucks.
I'm shooting on Saturday and thinking why can't I shoot Vespas instead? An old friend from New York said, "If you hang around one long enough you might get lucky." Sound advice which I will heed. I'll hang around, eat a taco or two, maybe even sample the beef tongue, wait and see what presents itself. In the meantime, I pray to the taco gods.


  1. I look forward to the seeing the results from this assignment. For some reason "minimalistic" subject like this appeals to me. I am thinking changing light, peak hours (?), different vantage points, close/far..
    Hanging around long enough is good advice, but I don`t think you need "luck", you are too good for that, Eman...;-)

  2. Manny,
    Interesting that you should have chosen this as a topic because a couple of weeks ago, my old roommate Betsy Courrier asked me to join her as she went around shooting all the botanicas on the UWS. Every year there are fewer of them and she thinks eventually they will become extinct. Your pictures reminded me of the shops for some reason -- tacos and hexes don't really have anything in common, but they both make very interesting subjects.