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Anne-Marie Michel: “Learn to embrace failure ”

Desiree Wood is a truck driver I met while at a trucker campout in the desert in Arizona. She’s a force to be reckoned with! Her personal journey has been hard won and inspired by some of the horrific experiences she had whilst training to be a trucker she has become a grassroots advocate for […]

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Desiree Wood is a truck driver I met while at a trucker campout in the desert in Arizona. She’s a force to be reckoned with! Her personal journey has been hard won and inspired by some of the horrific experiences she had whilst training to be a trucker she has become a grassroots advocate for women rights and safety for everyone in the trucking industry. As well as working as a truck driver, she runs two trucker charities — REAL Women in Trucking and T.E.A.R. (Truckers Emergency Assistance Responders). 50% of profits of Sisters of the Road merchandise sold during my exhibitions and 20% of my photographic print sales goes to these and other trucking charities (charity chosen by the woman featured in the image).


Photographic artist, Anne-Marie Michel, was born in England, but highly influenced by her childhood in the USA. In her younger years she was always drawn to all things creative and found inspiration in the vast American landscapes, beautiful light and the feeling of freedom.

She attended the London College of Fashion and received a BA in Fashion Photography & MA in Fashion & Film. Anne-Marie started her career taking photos of up and coming stars in her sister’s garage in Los Angeles, later simultaneously working as a fashion photographer in Europe, and as a celebrity press photographer photographing the world’s red carpets, film festivals and fashion weeks. In the last few years her work has shifted towards portraiture as she tells the individual stories of ‘real people’ in their own words alongside her imagery.

Her current project, ‘Sisters of the Road’, presents the untold stories of forty American female truckers. Each woman’s experiences are unique, but together the portraits tell a story of a group of remarkable women who deserve to be heard…

“The female truckers I met during my 10,000-mile journey across the USA were resilient and determined to make their mark in this male dominated industry.”

Now based in London, her work ‘Sisters of the Road’ has been exhibited with The Royal Photographic Society/London,UK, Hundred Heroines/London,UK, Berlin Photo Week/Germany, Art City/Arte Fiera 2020/Italy and at the Glasgow Gallery of Photography/Scotland.

She hopes to exhibit “Sisters of the Road” in the USA as she believes that’s where the project belongs. The book, ‘Sisters of the Road’, will be available mid 2021.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been a creative with a desire to dwell in all that I find beautiful, whether that’s a beauty held in classic painting and opera music, or the vibe of a buzzing light in a dimly lit carpark. The beauty I appreciate most is the one found in unexpected places.

I studied fashion photography and then fashion & film at London College of Fashion and then spent a decade working in fashion and celebrity image-making. I love fashion imagery, there’s a unique aesthetic language in it, it has an ability to draw and hold the viewers attention to the featured product, person or idea. Having my foundation roots in the world of fashion imagery gives me a unique perspective and way of working with imagery and I wanted to apply these skills to people and stories that I feel deserve to be seen and heard.

My Current project, Sisters of the Road, was my first personal project where I shifted my lens to ‘real people’ in a more documentary style.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I feel really lucky to do a job where I often find myself in quirky & interesting situations.

While working on Sisters of the Road, I felt honoured to have met so many amazing women and get a glimpse of their extraordinary everyday lives. One of my favourites was spending a 12 hour shift with Ciara, a logger trucker in Oregon. We ascended the mountain in pitch darkness at the beginning of her shift at 3am, up winding mountain trails that had been freshly cut in the dirt by a digger, and onward up to the peak where we ascended past the cloud line. When the sun slowly rose, I could see the cliff edges she had been reversing around blindly in the dark as she reminded me to be careful opening my door because of the sheer drop. I watched her load freshly cut logs and tie them down with heavy chains, before descending with her haul down slippy dirt slopes. Witnessing the physical and often dangerous work, I was in awe of her bravery, determination & the precise skill that she used in her everyday life.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I make lots of funny mistakes! A part of my process is figuring out how to take the pictures I want to make, this includes working through my harebrained ideas and being persistent.
When I started the ‘Sisters of the Road’ project, I hadn’t yet met any truckers and it turned out pretty hard to find them let alone getting their attention and gaining their trust. 
My first plan was to hangout in truckstops and wait for trucker women to come in. The first couple days I didn’t see any women drivers at all ( I now know they’re only 7% of the workforce). When I finally spotted one, in my excitement, I ran up to her truck as she drove across the truck parking lot.. waving my arms in the hopes she might stop and speak to me… she of course, kept driving past the crazy lady waving her arms in the middle of a truckstop parking lot and kept going! That was when I just had to laugh at myself and change my gameplan. It’s important to keep a sense of humour!

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

As a photographer, I have a pre-existing framework/platform to show my work and reach large audiences, whether that’s through exhibitions, books, media, or instagram. For me, I believe in sharing that platform with the people in my images. If they have something to say, they deserve to be seen and heard. 
My upcoming book features the 40 trucker women that I met and tells their stories in their own words, alongside their portraits and the landscapes they travel.
I also regularly keep in touch with all the women I’ve photographed via a facebook group, whether that’s just to see how everyone is doing or to give a private preview of the photo exhibitions before they open.
I’ve recently exhibited this project in London, Berlin, Bologna and Glasgow. I have kept the women involved as much as possible, giving private tours of the exhibition before it opens and having a stream of communication between gallery visitors and the women during the exhibit. For example, exhibition visitors were able to write notes or questions to the women on the gallery wall & I would then pass these on to the truckers each evening and post their video responses on my instagram and show the responses on a video projector in the gallery the following day.

Where I have the chance to speak publicly, I have taken a driver or two with me via internet video link. They are fantastic & speak about the issues important to them and regale their tales of the road. The audiences absolutely love them and are captivated!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Desiree Wood is a truck driver I met while at a trucker campout in the desert in Arizona. She’s a force to be reckoned with! Her personal journey has been hard won and inspired by some of the horrific experiences she had whilst training to be a trucker she has become a grassroots advocate for women rights and safety for everyone in the trucking industry. As well as working as a truck driver, she runs two trucker charities — REAL Women in Trucking and T.E.A.R. (Truckers Emergency Assistance Responders). 50% of profits of Sisters of the Road merchandise sold during my exhibitions and 20% of my photographic print sales goes to these and other trucking charities (charity chosen by the woman featured in the image).

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I thought this question was best answered by the voice of one of the trucker women so I asked this question in advance to Desiree Wood (REAL Women in Trucking & TEAR) and here is her response:

Consumers need to become aware of the brands they buy and which brands are contracting trucking fleets where rape of students is frequently occurring and demand these brands dump them from their supply chain rotations.

Law enforcement and Department of Transportation need to recognize trucking fleets who use students labor in team driving operations and go the extra mile to examine the situation with more scrutiny.

Congress must stop funding truck driver training programs that use students for team driving where; they have excessive turnover, do not produce qualified candidates and have numerous sexual misconduct allegations. They must start collecting and analysing this data to see if it is an industry wide issue where women fall through the cracks and predators vanish back into the truck driver population and then harm someone else. These sexual predators bounce from company to company with a clean slate. This is wrong.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I would describe a leader as someone with a vision, who then shares it and inspires others to work towards a common goal.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

For photographers — Develop your technical skills & keep shooting with your camera until its an extension of yourself (and you no longer realise you’re holding it) so you can have an unbroken stream of thought whilst working.

Learn to embrace failure — It happens! It’s a part of the process. Those lessons will help you get to the next stage.

Talk to those at the top of whatever field you’re in — learn from their experience.

Find your comfort zone then purposely push yourself out of it. — I like to challenge myself on this every once and awhile. It keeps me on my toes.

Make lists — I have lots of ideas buzzing round and different projects happening at once, so my studio is covered with lists — daily to-dos, project ideas, circles of thought — it keeps me on track.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Well, it’s not a new idea to spark a movement, but I believe what would most benefit the world would be universal equality. The sexes, races, religions, abilities and social classes. All beings are created equal, and a little bit of love goes a long way.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favourite is an old English proverb that my father would always remind me of whilst growing up — ’throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick’ 
It’s something I still keep in mind in my daily life… persistence is key!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Can I be greedy and request my dream breakfast and lunch??

First, I would have breakfast with the British artist, Maggi Hambling. She is a fantastic character and lives her life for her art. I’m always struck by the sense of raw truth, freedom and beauty in all that she creates. I would love to bask in the glow of her creativity for a morning.

Now off to lunch — I would love to meet the American auteur, David Lynch. His ideas and aesthetic have had a huge influence on the way I approach imagery, sound and sequencing. He’s a fearless, freethinking and intuitive creative who’s always on the look out for the next idea floating through his mind. I’m sure it would be an interesting lunch!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.annemariemichel.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annemariemichel/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annemarie_is_me

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