Inside Cartagena’s tightly framed photographs, only thin clouds, visible as reflections, hint at the complex environment in which this scenario plays out day after day for the carpoolers. To get a sense of their perspective as this project neared completion, Cartagena climbed into the bed of a pickup truck with his camera one Sunday morning. With their disorienting, diagonal lines and indistinct, partial glimpses, the images he made contrast starkly with the controlled uniformity characteristic of the principal series. Looking skyward, the hidden passengers see a continuous stretch of blue, broken by road signs, billboards, and towering light posts. As they get closer to San Pedro, the sky is punctuated with symbols of unattainable prosperity, like the luxury automobile logos and the private helicopters that just clear the power lines running parallel to the highway. Power lines serve as significant emblems here; Cartagena asks us to consider the political and economic structures that move energy, labor, and wealth throughout Mexico. Conceptualized as one layer of a lifelong project, Cartagena’s carpoolers series makes visible one more space between major points on the urban power grid.
© Jessica S. McDonald 2014