Photographer Roger K Snider has a cause and it’s a big one. One of his life-long interests has been American Big Rigs and life on the road. He wants others to know and share in his love for these big, beautiful machines, and he is making sure these beauties stay alive with an ongoing personal photo assignment called “Class Pays.”
Snider is an accomplished Los Angles-based advertising and commercial photographer whose compelling work combines controlled precision and a slice-of-life photojournalistic flair. He captures the emotional essence of his subjects, both animate and inanimate. He took his first photos from a plane flown by his father, an aerial photographer, and later attended the University of Florida, where he earned a BFA in Creative Photography. He moved to San Francisco where he learned the business of commercial photography and then moved on to New York City for four years. In New York he moonlighted as a location scout, while establishing a creative vision that helped him to connect to the world of magazine editorial shooting.
Even as a kid, Snider was already intrigued by big rigs. While growing up in Miami, he made road trips to visit his grandmother in Virginia, and these became his first opportunities to see big rigs in action on the road and at truck stops. Much later In 2003 Snider met a film director in Los Angeles who just happened to be shooting a documentary about big rigs. Luck was with him, he was hired by the director to shoot the stills for the film and the rest is big rig history.
After about five years of shooting the custom big rig scene around the world, Snider decided it was time to create his personal project based on the Peterbilt “Class Pays” ads from the 1970s and 1980s. Peterbilt has reigned as America’s ultimate manufacturer of high-quality, heavy-duty trucks since 1939. Peterbilt trucks are known as the “Class of the Industry” because of high performance, low maintenance, durability and commitment to the customer. The Class ads appeared in such magazines as Overdrive, Owner/Operator and Trucker when trucking was a hot topic and in its heyday. He began shooting the open house “Class Pays” display at the Peterbilt factory in Denton, Texas in 2007 where 40 to 50 “invite only” custom Peterbilts arrive to be put on display for the factory workers and their family and friends. It was during one of these trips in 2010, a treasure trove of vintage “Class Pays” calendars from the 1970s was unearthed after years of being relegated to a storage closet. With the discovery of these older Peterbilt classic ads, Snider had all the inspiration he needed to shoot his own series of classic truck beauty.
“I had seen a few of these images in old trucking magazines I was researching and found them fascinating. I loved the idea because it was an intersection of the two things I love shooting most, customized 18 wheelers and retro inspired fashion,” he says. His vision would add a feminine mystique to the huge, massive rigs. He wanted to keep the wonderful vintage style, but he also wanted to add a touch of old Hollywood glamour. He brought his actress-friend Agnes Olech into the mix for the shoots. Snider knew Olech had the perfect look, and he also had the help of his sister-in-law, a celebrity stylist and fashion designer, to create the flowing dresses and outfits that suited the actress and the concept.
© Roger K Snider
Through his research, he found that the original creatives at Peterbilt would plan their advertising shoots for half a year and then do an international model search to find the right talent. Snider of course did not have the budget or time to work through the ideas as they did. The shoots he does now involve a fitting with Olech, where he pulls together six to eight looks depending on how many trucks he will be shooting. He then mixes and matches outfits with the trucks and locations. Even Olech’s own personal style is reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour, and she is adept at doing her own hair and make up on the fly to match each situation. There are about 15 to 20 wardrobe fittings with Olech, and Snider selects the reactions to the outfits that work best. Once they have made their final decisions, they are ready to hit the road.
© Roger K Snider
Snider likes to shoot with a Canon 5D and with Neutral Density Graduated Lee filters to burn the sky in and also uses two Profoto power packs with an Elinchrom Octobank and P50 Magnum reflector with grid. The Gitzo tripod comes in when the sun is setting.
Currently his big rig images are being shown at the Peterbilt factory in Denton, Texas, every year during the Open House and are part of a gallery and book project that is in the works. He also publishes a book of the Denton show that the invited drivers can purchase as a visual memento of this special event. This year the open house will be held in Denton once again on Saturday, October 13, 2012.
Snider has developed a legion of loyal followers who know and are devoted to his work. At a recent truck show in Northern California a trucker gave him the greatest compliment of all, when he told him he was "keeping Class alive.” “The Class Pays" campaign means a lot to these guys and no one else is doing it,” adds Snider.
The “Class Pays” images are lush and sensual and have landed Snider new assignments for editorial and ad campaigns. Last summer he shot a print ad for CR England Global Transportation that appears in The Journal of Commerce, and he has been contacted by several new fashion designers who are also eager to collaborate on the project. He is also collaborating with Luke Lucas, an accomplished graphic designer and art director from Melbourne, Australia, as they incorporate new “Class Pays” phrases beautifully written in a custom retro font to give this concept an incredibly smart and polished look. Look for it coming out as a fashion story in an art house magazine soon.
© Roger K Snider
“Class Pays” has certainly paid off for Snider on several levels. He has introduced these All-American beauties to so many others who now get to share in the enjoyment. He has kept the idea alive with his unique vision, and it continues to evolve with every photograph he takes.
You can see more of Roger K Snider’s custom big rig work at www.ultrarigsoftheworld.com He is represented by Sally Bjornsen of Sally Reps, and see his advertising Web site, which includes six years of the Dos XX “Most Interesting Man” campaign, at www.rogerksnider.com. And you are sure to run into him at a Big Rig show somewhere in the heartland during the summer! As Roger likes to say, “You can catch me on the scenic route”
© Roger K Snider