As any photojournalist knows, in between the sports and the news assignments at a daily paper, there are times when you just get to wander around and try to find something interesting to take pictures of. At my old paper we called it “wild art.” Some places call it “enterprising.” At the Columbia Missourian, we say “feature hunting.”

Last week, there were no assignments, so I headed out to see what I could see. I went to an office where I hoped to do a story, and when I struck out there, I was driving around just looking at things. I drove past a car dealership, and was struck by how shiny and clean the cars were. Just days before we had been hit by the second of two pretty big winter storms that dropped more than 18 inches of snow on Columbia. Cars left outdoors were piled high with the stuff. But, here we were, with mountains of snow left in parking lots all over town, and all these cars were just gleaming in the sun.

Being a curious guy, I wondered how all of those cars got clean. Did they run them through a car wash machine somewhere in the back? Did someone wash them all by hand? So, I pulled into the lot to find out.

That’s where I met Alfonso, and Terrance and Jasun, the car preppers and detailers responsible for cleaning up all the 400+ cars on the lot.

“Hand washing is the only way to do it. At least, the only way to do it right. Automatic machines would be faster, but they don’t know each individual vehicle,” Alfonso said.

Another good reminder that we very rarely run photographs shot, or stories written, inside the newsroom. Get out in the community, and you never know what you might learn.

Alfonso Hayes washes car

Alfonso Hayes hand washes a car Monday at Joe Machens Automotive Group. He said it takes about 15 minutes to wash a car from start to finish. Each vehicle is washed, waxed and dried by hand.

Men joke around while washing cars

Terrance Jefferson jumps on Alfonso Hayes’ back while Hayes washes a car Monday. “I’m the comic relief around here,” Jefferson said. “I make sure everyone is having a good time.”

Alfonso Hayes wrings out chamois towel

Alfonso Hayes wrings out a chamois towel Monday in the wash bay at Joe Machens Automotive Group. “It’s no Sham Wow, but it gets the job done,” Hayes said.

Washing cars at Joe Machens

Alfonso Hayes vacuums the door sill of a vehicle Monday in the Joe Machens Automotive Group wash bays.

  1. Great photos and story.

  2. Very cool perspective and excellent photographs Greg!

  3. Man. Yes, Alfonso. Yes.

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