texasmonthly.com: How did the idea for the cover come to you?
Wyatt McSpadden: Well, it didn’t come to me; it came to Texas Monthly art director Scott Dadich. He and articles editor Chris Keyes came up with the idea after an editorial meeting. They wanted to illustrate the idea of the truck as the new national car of Texas. It had the celebrity tie-in with David Carr and the play on the words “Carr” and “truck.”
texasmonthly.com: When they told you about the idea could you envision it working?
WM: Sure, it really is a fairly simple thing. I guess it is simple if you are familiar with the Cadillac Ranch, if you’ve seen it. Having that as a reference, then it’s easy enough to understand. The interesting part of all this is that thirty years ago I was working for Stanley Marsh 3 outside Amarillo when the Ant Farm, the artists who came up with the idea for the Cadillac Ranch, buried the cars. The first pictures I took—more than just snapshots of the family—were the Cadillacs going into the ground west of Amarillo. There was some nice symmetry to working on this cover image because I actually have some experience with burying vehicles in ground, even though it was thirty years ago. It is something that stays with you, how deep the hole needs to be. So that was kind of fun.
texasmonthly.com: Where did you find the truck to use?
WM: Scott hired a lady by the name of Bonnie Markel, who is a stylist, location scout, and producer here in Austin. Through a series of phone calls, she found a truck with a guy who has a wrecking yard in Houston. The truck had been totaled in an accident, but all we needed to see was the backside of the cab. So they made a deal with this guy (I don’t know what the deal was), and they trailered the truck down to the location at the historic George Ranch. Associate art director T. J. Tucker had made arrangements with those folks to let us dig an eight-foot-deep hole, and they were very generous in that they not only let us use that piece of ground but also provided a backhoe to dig the hole.
texasmonthly.com: Were there any problems getting the truck into the hole?
WM: There was no weight on the tires on the back of the truck, so they separated too much from the back. I didn’t like the way that looked. T.J. and I tried to think of what we could do. Was there some sort of pulley we could put on the axel to pull the tires back in? We fretted about that and then decided we’d do something the next day. By the time we got there at eleven in the morning, operations manager Rocky Parr and Raymundo Garza, his hand, had actually gotten some chains and pulleys and cinched up those tires. It was fabulous. They saved us a whole lot of work. I can’t express how helpful the people at the ranch were.
texasmonthly.com: Was David Carr easy to photograph?
WM: Sure. He is a very nice guy, very cooperative. I mean, why wouldn’t he be? He is a 25-year-old millionaire who looks like a Greek god. Why wouldn’t he be nice? What’s to be mad about? So anyway, he was very sweet and cheerfully did anything we asked him to do, which is always nice as it doesn’t always happen that way.
texasmonthly.com: How many different positions and settings did you try at the photo shoot?
WM: We didn’t vary it that much. We had the truck, and clearly that wasn’t going to go anywhere. There was only one angle to shoot from, so it was a matter of where does this guy standing next to the truck look the best. We tried a couple of different things with different shirts and a cowboy hat. We didn’t shoot a million pictures, just around 120, which is not that much really.
texasmonthly.com: What are your favorite things to shoot?
WM: I am mostly a portrait photographer, but I have certainly done everything considering I have been doing this for thirty years. At the end of the day I really love photographing people the best.