Collector Daily, September 2010
Before seeing this show, if you had asked me to guess what I thought the lives of long-haul truck drivers were actually like, I suppose the adjectives I might have come up with would have been boring (mile after mile of endless highway), stressful (gotta get there on time!), dreary, lonely, and maybe even sad, all in an abstract way. To get at the real answer, the husband and wife team of James Tribble and Tracey Mancenido packed up their cameras, got their commercial licenses, and spent the better part of a year on a permanent road trip, documenting the American trucking subculture from the inside, almost like embedded journalists.
What emerges from their travels isn’t a series of surprising localities, dramatic adventures or iconic moments, but a sense of constant, mind-numbing motion, a journey without destination, a life of interchangeable truck stops, gas stations, parking lots, and eighteen-wheel tractor trailers. Their photographic approach mixes staged portraits with still lifes, wider shots of truck stop architecture with close-up near abstractions. Quiet, overlooked details are used to animate the story: a glowing dash board, a rainbow oil slick on the pavement, a set of orange warning triangles, a swirling salt residue, a group of parked trailers at night, a repairman sitting on an expanse of gravel, a brightly lit gas station empty in the pitch blackness. The result is an atmospheric portrait that echoes some of the stereotypes I alluded to, but with a deeper sense of personality; the grim reality of rolling up the miles each and every day weighs heavily on these otherwise crisp photographic fragments.
With some deft editing and sequencing, I think this body of work would make a solid artist’s book. I think the danger lies in having too many pristine, almost bloodless images; it is the sympathetic connections and overlays to the larger story that give the pictures their emotional punch and context. Perhaps the success of the project actually turns on the relative strength of the portraits, even though some of the fragments may be the strongest images in the series. It’s clear that trucking is a hard and gritty life, and the weariness that is etched on the faces of the drivers delivers the memorable pathos. While the elegant, stylized details tell an important part of the tale, in the end, it is the forgotten struggles of the people that make it real.
The New York Times, February 2009
In 2004, an African-American from South Carolina named James Frank Tribble moved to New York to attend art school. Two years later, he met Tracey Mancenido, a fashion school graduate, whose parents had immigrated to Queens from the Philippines.
The two, who soon became a couple, developed an unusual collaboration. Handing out business cards on the street, they encouraged people to call them to arrange portrait sittings.
They found that approaching strangers as a young, multiethnic couple inspired trust, and many people responded to their offer. Their first project revealed a quirky cross-section of New Yorkers photographed in their own homes.
Mr. Tribble and Ms. Mancenido, whose portfolios of photographs can be seen at www.tribblemancenido.com, work as a team. Each wields a camera, and they “dance” around their subjects, putting them at ease with constant banter and movement. As Ms. Mancenido explains, “In every shoot, without fail, the sitter is drawn to one of us, and we use that as best we can to capture what we see.”
In 2007, Mr. Tribble and Ms. Mancenido married, and their second project, “Pillow Talk,” which seems to have special relevance as Valentine’s Day approaches, evolved out of their romance. Curious about how partners express intimacy, they began photographing couples in their bedrooms. Their first sitters were friends and then friends of friends in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Hoboken, N.J.
Despite ethnic and sexual diversity, the “Pillow Talk” couples have one thing in common: tiny bedrooms. Each shoot requires four people — two with cameras on tripods — to maneuver in tight quarters, sometimes on a bed. These small rooms are the setting for a distinctly New York kind of love.
British Journal of Photography, October 2010 (print)