Tron Martínez’s Some Taco Trucks utilises photography to discuss culinary identity and the politics of space

At first, inspired by many artist books utilising a similar approach, Tron thought he would plot out taco trucks via Google Street View. Finding the images to not be quite satisfying enough, he began to trek out armed with a camera, after all: “The ambulatory nature of the trucks left their locations somewhat unpredictable.” Plotting out journeys by searching food blogs and Yelp for taco truck reviews, the artist also noted locations likely for a taco truck to make a stop, such as construction yards, industrial parkways, warehouse parking lots or soccer fields. Literally travelling around the area in conjunction with the trucks feels not only creatively apt but it opened Tron’s eyes to the original points in the study. “After visiting the trucks, the food spaces created by trucks was evident, then the communities and culture being exchanged became essential,” he adds.
In turn, as a description of Some Taco Trucks clearly points out, Tron’s “pursuit of authentic tacos and taco trucks contains its own cultural politics, a democratic acknowledgement of blue collar food.” Via photography, the artist’s documentation displays how “even that space is in jeopardy with the rise of food delivery apps,” a juxtaposition which runs as a thread throughout the book, especially when you consider how the Bay Area houses many tech-focused startups, as well as this segregation the artist describes. “Diners can remain at home without having to interact with the working-class people making their food,” reads an introduction to Some Taco Trucks. “Now, customers merely tap their screens and, eventually nod to an anonymous (usually POC) delivery person.” This combination the artist so thoroughly documents, therefore, serves as a “reminder of the immigrant entrepreneurs and the communities they create with their trucks, both culinary and physical.”
Interested in the theory, Tron decided to develop his own research, beginning a keyword search for eateries described with terms such as “sketchy, hood, ghetto, and ratchet” in reviews. Around the same time, he also noticed a hashtag trending on Twitter #tacotrucksoneverycorner, relating back to a Latinx Trump supporter’s appearance on Fox News “sounding the alarm against the Democratic immigration policy which would result in a taco take-over,” explains the artist. With both of these instances in mind, Tron’s latest project came into focus – a series, and subsequent book, photographing taco trucks across the Bay Area. The result, which has just received a reprint (growing in size too) is Some Taco Trucks, a title which uses photography and sits “at the crux between culinary identity and the politics of space”.
A few years back, photography-focused visual artist Tron Martínez read a study detailing how analysts could predict which neighbourhoods were gentrifying by reading Yelp reviews. As Tron relays from the study, in areas “where ‘reviewers mobilise their racialised biases to effect redlining’ and essentially ‘encourage, confirm or even accelerate processes of gentrification by signalling that a locality is good for people who share their tastes’,” it could indicate a possible rapid change. “Basically,” Tron tells It’s Nice That, “foodies beget foodies and change the culture of a neighbourhood through their disposable income.”
Over the course of the book Tron displays a long route across the Bay Area, spanning “as far south as the suburb of San Bruno and north to the industrial city of Richmond, just 20 to 30 minutes from San Francisco,” he describes. Although now widely referenced as the area inhabited by Silicon Valley, “what most people don’t realise about the Bay Area is, despite its liberal reputation, it is segregated and classist,” explains the artist. And while the effects of the “foodie phenomenon” a few years ago can be seen in areas where food markets collate together the most popular food trucks, positioning them in affluent areas, “these are the trucks I avoided,” says Tron; instead, eating and documenting trucks parked by motels, at the airport, or across the distribution centre for Amazon.