Douglas Brooks is an accomplished woodworker, boat builder, and a connoisseur of traditional cultures and methods, especially those in danger of being lost. He’s apprenticed to five different Japanese boat builders and constructs beautiful hand-built boats in his Vergennes, Vermont workshop. I recently had the good fortune to photograph him for Middlebury Magazine.
While the article was going to discuss his boat building, the main focus was his appreciation for old-school craftsmanship and traditions. Before going into his workshop to make some images of him using his vintage handtools, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind posing for a few portraits in his 1947 International pickup truck.
“Oh, you like my truck?”
“I love it. My father is restoring a ’50s era Willy’s Jeep, and my uncle in California has a 1955 Ford Pickup and a 1959 Willy’s Jeep. I love the simplicity of antique trucks.”
I thought Douglas had been using his pickup as an everyday driver, having seen him motoring around Vergennes in it previously. But it’s not. His modern everyday car broke down, and he was driving the pickup until he could decide what to get next.
He offered to drive us to a nearby parking lot so we have a little more room to work. We climbed in, he pulled the choke and the engine sputtered to life. The truck’s cab is a mix of dark metal and leather with dusty gauges reporting only the basics. It’s small by modern standards, but comfortable and with the windows down it’s the next best thing to riding in a drop top.
The bare metal clutch pedal clanked as Douglas pushed it to the floor and threw the truck in gear. The engine dropped from a tenor to a bass and we picked up speed. It’s a short ride down the street, but I can tell he appreciated the excuse to drive his pickup.
“It’s never left me on the side of the road.”
I photographed Douglas and his truck with a 4×5 Crown Graphic and Agfa Solinar 10.5cm ƒ/4.5 lens on Kodak Tri-X Pan 320. I developed in HC-110 diluted 1:49. The exposure was 1/250 at ƒ/4.5. This lens flares easily so I used the film holder’s dark slide to shade the lens from the bright sky.