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In the Back of the Cab

[whitespace] Greg Roden & Paul Schmidt
Photographer Greg Roden (right) and Paul Schmidt going to lunch.

Photos by Greg Roden
Text by Stett Holbrook

Step in front of a San Francisco cab and you might get flattened. Step in front of Greg Roden's cab and you might get shot.

Roden, 30, has been driving a Veteran's cab for a year and a half. He's spent most of his time behind the wheel behind the lens of a camera too, shooting photos out his window and of passengers in his back seat, documenting the life of a taxi driver.

The Mission District resident began driving out of necessity. He needed a job, and driving a cab appealed to him. "It was always the cab drivers who were clued in," he says.

Already handy with camera and video, he wanted to work photography into his new job. After spending three months learning to navigate the streets, he started focusing on photography.

"Photography was part of my motivation to drive. I had another reason to go to work. It's hard to just drive around in a cab for 10 hours a day."

His shots are on display at the Rite Spot Cafe in the Mission District through March, a photo exibit called "Driven: A Behind the Wheel Series." The photos took flrst place in the Bay Guardian's recent photo contest. One of his photos, appositely called "Fuck You," show a cab-hating ped fogging up the window with angry breath, middle digit extended. Another image, entitled "Three martini lunch," shows three slightly devious-looking businessmen grinning in the back of the cab.

"The real goal was to try and show what it's like to be a cab driver," he says. Roden shoots most of his photos without looking through the viewflnder. He spins around and asks a fare if she would mind having her photo taken. Then he simply extends his arm, Nikon in hand, and snaps a shot. His bearded and sunglassed mug often appears in the corner of many photos.

He is still out there documenting the urban drama as the meter ticks away.

"The project is ongoing until I stop driving," he says.

What's Up, Sugar?

Street Punks.

"They say it takes between one and flve years to become a real cab driver, so I guess I still have some learning to do. It took me a couple of months to flnally drag the camera along. It was slow at flrst, a few shots here and there. Now after a year and a half I've managed to shoot a couple hundred rolls. These are a few brief and simple moments that I have been able to capture."

Rainy Night Mechanic.


Medallion owners have a ticket to drive, not a free ride.

Tales of cab drivers from the rear view.

Drivers peg fares before they climb in the back seat.

Sometimes, you don't want to know what goes on back there.


In Dad's Arms.

Bought It in Chinatown.

just topless
relaxed topless

I pick up Linda early on a Sunday morning. We talk about photography and I take a few shots of her. I tell her my idea of doing a series of nudes in the cab. "I think it's a great idea," she says. Pause. "I'll take my shirt off right now if you want to take some pictures of me."

top view
Everyday's Cool With Brad.

homeless w/sign
Smile, I Don't Want Nothin'.

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From the March 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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