In July of last year, a young couple came to Juliana Könnecke, an award-winning photographer based in Hamburg, Germany, with a unique request. “The woman and her husband asked me if it would be possible to combine a pregnancy shoot with her and his baby,” she tells me. The woman was pregnant, but the husband’s baby was “already born,” Könnecke recalls. It turns out, the husband’s “baby” was actually his red truck.
Spend enough time on the internet and you’ll find that the request wasn’t completely novel. Not to be confused with girls ‘n trucks, or even pregnant women next to measly pickup trucks — maternity photos that depict a personified semi-truck, gazing down at a lone pregnant woman below, is nothing short of its own genre. In fact, a small collection of similar pictures consistently go viral, perhaps because the imagery lends itself to, let’s say, peculiar interpretation.
But for those in the freight industry, honoring a family’s intimate connection to their truck checks out. “I mean, I’m not going to sit here and deny the pictures make it look like Optimus Prime somehow conceived a child with that woman, but there’s more to the story,” says Ben, a 32-year-old who’s worked in the freight industry for nearly a decade. “Some truckers are just odd people — hours of isolation and a general dismissal by most of society will do that to you. But that isolation also makes you feel a pretty close bond to your truck, enough to maybe want to personify it.”
Plus, Ben adds, “for a lot of these guys, especially if they’re independent, their truck is deeply tied to their family’s well-being — it’s their livelihood.” With that in mind, the pictures are really no different than someone taking a photo in front of the family’s small business storefront. “But people see [truck drivers] as dirty, creepy, slow-driving hazards on the road,” he says, “so they take those pictures and their imagination runs.”
Consider the oft-viral image of a pregnant woman standing in a green, flowing dress as a yellow semi-truck gazes upon her and lightning strikes in the background. In a 2019 interview with Brazilian website Universo Online, the woman pictured, Diana Rodrigues of Mato Grosso, Brazil, explained how the truck represented the financial hardships her parents endured in order to raise a family. “My parents’ honeymoon took place on the road, in a truck. Not only because of the profession, but also because of the financial conditions, which were not the best,” Rodrigues offered. “During the entire pregnancy, my mother traveled with my father [and] three months after I was born, we hit the road again. […] The truck is part of our lives and could not be left out.”
For the young couple in Könnecke’s office, it’s a similar story. “The truck was definitely his baby. He’s a professional truck driver, and he loves his job and his vehicle,” she tells me. “They were totally in love and she did it for him, but it’s also part of their welfare and their life, so they were very passionate about getting the shot.”
Passionate enough, she adds, that the young couple drove over two hours to Denmark, where the husband’s truck was parked, for the photo shoot. “When we arrived in Denmark, a big storm had spread and everything seemed to tip over, but a postponement wasn’t possible because she was shortly before her childbirth,” Könnecke explains. “Then, after hours of preparation and waiting, a small gap opened up and the weather cleared up — only for about 40 minutes, but that was enough. When we finally got it, tears of relief flowed.”
In the year since the husband’s truck debuted in the pregnancy shoot, the pictures helped crown Könnecke as the 2021 International Baby Photographer of the Year. Not only that, but “both parents and the baby are well, and have been back here for some more shootings,” Könnecke says. “Those, however, haven’t included the truck, since the focus has been more on the real baby. ”