Evocative of America’s open-road culture and the freedom it entails, trucks have long transcended being mere modes of transport, becoming veritable symbols of identity for a nation and its people.
In “American Trucks”, Swiss photographer Ulysse Fréchelin’s clever use of close-ups and camera angles means it is not always evident at first glance what the subjects of the images are: Lustrous exhaust stacks, imperious radiator grilles, curvaceous fenders and riveted hoods of the tractor units; smooth or rippled panels of their trailers; shiny hub caps and chunky bolts of the wheels… Fréchelin turns these truck details on their head and showcases them in a totally fresh light, lending them a new identity. The stunning result is a series of portraits not of trucks per se but of whatever the beholder imagines them to represent.
Shooting in intense heat over a fortnight at truck stops on the Arizona-New Mexico border, Fréchelin emphatically succeeds in capturing the imposing proportions, gleaming chrome and vibrant colours of these automotive behemoths – bold yellows, greens and reds – as well as the dazzling light and vast blue skies of their backdrop – the mythical American West.
Ulysse Fréchelin was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 1981. His first artistic outlet was writing; he only seriously used a camera for the first time when he was 20 years old, with the idea of becoming a photographer materialising almost overnight.
Fréchelin spent four years studying photography at the School of Photography in Vevey, Switzerland between 2001 and 2005. He says: “When it came to choosing between university and another path, I chose the other path, and I have never regretted it.”
After his studies, he spent five years perfecting the photographer’s trade in Paris, first as an assistant – to the likes of Albert Giordan, Shu Akashi and Tiziano Magni – then as a photographer in his own right. Following several trips to Berlin and New York, a first exhibition of Fréchelin’s work was put on in Geneva, where he moved to in 2011 and has opened his own studio.
“I chose the other path, and I have never regretted it.”
In Geneva, Fréchelin continues to develop still-life techniques using natural light, involving plenty of outside shooting. He says: “I try to convey the existential, natural beauty which I sometimes witness by observing nature and the elements.”
As well as personal projects like “American Trucks”, Fréchelin carries out commercial work for leading fashion and beauty brands such as Bvlgari, Dior, Cartier, Chanel and Burberry, while also working on projects for leading fashion magazines including Numéro and CR Fashion Book.