There was once a time, before minivans and SUVs, when full-sized vans ruled the streets. Ford Econoline, Dodge Tradesman, ChevyVan, GMC VanDura: these names were the stuff of legend. Outlandish airbrushed murals, most with some kind of sci-fi theme, graced the sides of these rolling motel rooms. Shag carpet, disco balls and (of course) folding mattresses filled the interiors.
Vans were a statement of identity, a private place to get your freak on and a guarantee that you’d always have a place to crash. The craze of building custom vans started in the seventies, and by the turn of the decade it was all but over. Full sized vans make have been great places to go heels-up-to-Jesus, but they sucked for everything else. They weren’t fun to drive, they were damn near impossible to park and they sucked down gas like Lindsey Lohan sucks down appletinis. By the time the minivan had made it’s entry into US car culture, the full sized van’s days were numbered.
Joe Stevens, a photographer and filmmaker, began documenting the surviving vans in a work he’s called “vans and the places they were”. Shot throughout the West, Steven’s images are captured on medium format film, not on digital media. He sees the connection between the decline of the van and the decline of photographic film, and hopes to capture the last remaining van on the final frame of photographic film available.