Photos Taken Off The Beaten Path
A Syrian airport worker carries a box with equipment for the UN observers at the Damascus airport in Syria, Tuesday, May, 8, 2012. Special envoy Kofi Annan is to brief the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday about the situation in the country, where about 40 U.N. observers are trying to calm the situation. U.N. officials hope to deploy a larger force of up to 300 observers. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman) (Muzaffar Salman)
"I was out in Colorado two weeks ago and saw this beautiful field of sunflowers, reached back, got the camera," says McGrew. "I used to not do that. I just feel like I'm out enjoying the universe. I'm being part of it."
On a recent run, he picked up 41,000 pounds of onions in Idaho for delivery in New York, making a few stops along the way to take pictures. Occasionally, he gets lucky and snaps a good one right from the driver's seat on a main road. But he prefers to get off the beaten path, going where most of us don't. McGrew takes his 18-wheeler down dirt roads.
Over the last 11 years on the road, the 59-year-old trucker figures he has taken about 20,000 photographs of the American landscape. Before he became a trucker, he was a professional photographer.
"My dad was a newspaper publisher, a little weekly paper, and I was in high school," he recalls. "First thing I did was pick up a camera," he says. "First pic was a little dog in a pickup truck and (it) made the front page of two newspapers."
"That's when I knew I had an eye for it," he says. "I can't remember not shooting pictures. It's just like walking."
Why, at the age of 48, did he become a trucker? He says he did it for the freedom. "I didn't want to get stuck in a small town with a wife I didn't want to be with and living in a house I didn't want and driving a car I didn't want."
He lives in his truck now, which is furnished with beds, curtains, and even a TV. He keeps his mother lode of photos in a storage facility in Alabama. He has taken images from canyons and lakes and even California's fashionable Rodeo Drive. He finds beauty everywhere, even in the back of a truck stop parking lot.
And now McGrew has compiled his photographs in a new book, The America You May NeveSee, which he wrote and designed in his truck. He even set the type for it. He's on kind of a book tour now, in his truck, and has even taken his own picture for publicity purposes.
He even makes personal appearances. Recently, he pulled his truck up to a store in Decatur, Ala., where his book is a bestseller.
McGrew says he is recognized these days. But the part is that the book is a dream come true. As a matter of fact, there is a good reason that the cover of the book features a photo of a rainbow.
"I saw the end of the rainbow, and I found a pot of gold," he says.
To McGrew, that pot of gold is the freedom of the open road and the joy he gets from taking photographs.
"It's just a matter of going beyond what's there, beyond what you see," he says. "Going that extra mile. That's life. You get out of it what you put in."
Richard McGrew reminds us that though our job may be delivering onions, we should take time to smell the roses.
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