DONNA CARLSON Staff Writer
OOIDA member Richard McGrew loves living on the edge. His edge, however, is typically the edge of a cliff where he has hiked to snap a photo. McGrew describes himself as an owner-operator with an eye for the perfect photo.
“I have always had the knack for photography,” he says. “My dad taught me well.” McGrew worked at “dad’s newspaper” where he learned how to do everything from typesetting to photography. “I grew up with the smell of ink. I had a photo published in the Alabama Publisher when I was only 12,” he relates.
McGrew went on to receive a degree in journalism from the University of Alabama, and found freelance photography jobs with Fortune 500 companies, New York fashion designers and many major newspapers. “When I went to New York I worked for a lot of top designers,” he notes. “You would never know they were my photos though, because they were mostly for catalogs.”
In 1989 while in New York, McGrew’s van was robbed and all his photography gear stolen. “I threw in the towel,” McGrew says. “I looked at my options and went to truckdriving school in Indiana. He went to work for Shippers Services Express out of Norcross, GA. That’s when his close friend and boss, Galo Moya, saw potential in McGrew’s photography. “He loaned me a camera, then a telephoto lens,” says McGrew. “I had been thinking about publishing a book for years but had no way to do it. Galo was the catalyst behind my efforts.”
Then McGrew captured what he calls the perfect photo. In June 1998 while trucking near Cane Beds, AZ, he noticed a rainbow in his side mirror. He quickly pulled over and took the photo that adorns the cover of his book. “The rainbow was the turning point for me,” he says. “I decided right on the spot to do something with my overflowing portfolio.” With the help of friends, McGrew began to narrow his massive collection down to the 41 photographs in his first book, “The America You May Never See.”
McGrew has spent more than $30,000 of his own money to get the first book published. It is a 30-page coffee table photography book filled with photographs of dynamic scenery, peaceful towns, seaports and lakes. He says the response was favorable from the beginning, but after he was interviewed on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” the book’s rise to prominence can be described as meteoric.
McGrew is still amazed that a trucker made it to the show. “It was a fluke,” he said. “I called and left a message that I was a trucker/photographer. Three weeks later CBS called and said they would like to interview me.”
A crew flew out to meet McGrew and set up a studio in the bunk of his truck. “It was like shooting a movie, with the crew following my truck through Utah, Idaho and Wyoming,” he explained. “I had a good laugh when the whole crew followed me through the Idaho scales.” The CBS experience fortified McGrew’s motive to pursue his photography. He expects to publish two more books this year. “They will be totally different books,” he says.
This trucker/photographer drives his truck to book signings and speaking engagements. Recently, he hosted an assembly at Athens Intermediate School in his hometown of Athens, AL, for an adventure of the national “Read Across America” program. The author/photographer told the 220 kids how great it is to see America from a truck and how to build an adventure through photography.
McGrew says he parks his truck when he spots a potential photo site. “I never take a chance on ruining the engine on a dirt road. I find a safe place to park and hike in.”
McGrew says he really enjoys the feedback from truckers who ask about the CBS logo on the side of his truck. “A few years ago,” he says, “I was just a trucker with a camera.”
“The America You May Never See” sells for $11.95 plus $3.95 shipping and handling. The book may be purchased by calling 1-800-247-6553 or ordering online at www.atlasbooks.com.