Back in the mid 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency enlisted the help of many freelance photographers to create DOCUMERICA – a collection of images related to the state of the environment at the time, EPA activities, and the general daily life of American citizens. There are over 15,000 images in their archive.
Inspired by a project of this size, we have decided to embark on our most ambitious (crazy?) adventure yet and we are calling it “Documerican Road.” (Hey, if you have a better title, let me know)
The goal of the project is to travel solo via car around the United States and provide a voice to the small business owners within the firearms and sporting industries. My role is to be part Coppola, part Kerouac, and part Charles Kuralt.
Every company starts small. Sometimes it is a guy sewing nylon in his garage. Maybe it’s a gunsmith or knifemaker endlessly hunched over a workbench, grinding out a new product. Or an instructor that gets up before sunrise in order to prep targets for the day’s class. These are the type of folks that make up the backbone of our little slice of the sporting goods industry. Without them, there would be no Magpuls, or Glocks, or Gunsites.
I want to profile these folks. They deserve to be heard. But more often than not, they do not have a significant marketing budget in order to produce even a 2-3 minute video that captures the essence of what they do.
My vision is to change that.
Towards the end of the Summer or early Fall, starting in Maine, traveling South down the East coast, across the South and Southwest, North along the Pacific, and then back through the heartland and up into Maine, I am expecting the trip to last somewhere between 6-10 weeks. Of course, it all depends on my ability to find the stories, maintain funding and keep up with mortgage payments.
The output will be a short documentary edit approximately once a week. Coupled with a strong social media presence, photo journalism, and audio interviews, Documerican Road is part passion project, and part grassroots effort to highlight small business ownership. Be assured that there will be a new type of look into the heart of what we are doing.
From an execution standpoint, the intent is to pack everything into my Nissan Xterra and hit the road, camping as often as I can, couch surfing with friends, and using hotels as a last resort (I need to shower at some point!). I will have scheduled meetings with companies across the country, but my hope is that there will be impromptu detours along the way that add to the material.
By no means will this be an inexpensive venture, and if I cannot procure funding for it, it will need to wait.
Since a lot of the filming and editing will be pro-bono, I have estimated expenses to be around $1500-$2000 per week for gas, food, lodging, supplies, as well as enough income to support myself, my family, and not send my home into foreclosure. A blown tire, transmission, or late night at a dive bar could put an unexpected dent in that treasure chest however.
Obviously, the more I can obtain ahead of time in terms of gear, gas cards, etc, the better I can budget the remaining cash. Anything above covering my expenses will be donated to charity.
In the end, I want to be able to give back to others, get a pulse for what is happening in this industry, and help foster a sense of community within this business that we are quickly losing.
A secondary goal is to collaborate with all of the other amazing creative folks that I have come to know, respect, and admire. The photographers, videographers, and graphic designers that create the astounding imagery you see on in all of your catalogs, social feeds, and magazines. They inspire me daily and we are stronger together than apart.
I will be looking for sponsors for legal issues (you never know!), camping gear, training ammo, clothing, road essentials, gas cards, or even just a safe place to lay my head at night. As I build out the schedule for this trip, I’ll also be developing ways for others to help in the adventure. I am not a big fan of asking others for help, so this is new for me, but if you would like to get involved, feel free to send me an email and we can begin the conversation: “matt at firelancemedia dot com.” I will NOT be able to visit every single business is every state, but if your story is compelling enough, I will do my best.
Thanks for your continued support, and I look forward to stopping by your city soon, if you’ll have me. Stay tuned for more details, Kickstarter-type video, and answers to all your questions..
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.