Brown VanDura with Tan Stripes Campground in Deming, NM Winter 2009
Immune Media's Questions for Joe Stevens:
The VAN project...you've been at it ad hoc for years. How do you go about it? How do you do it?
I go out to find them. It’s like a safari. I’ve got a pretty good idea of where vans are by now. I drive around in places where I think they’ll be, but of course that’s not always the case. It’s a very Zen-type of driving experience because you have no real destination. It’s relaxing. Sometimes I’m able to find something I like, sometimes not. For this project I use a Hasselblad with an 80mm lens, 6x6cm, 120 film. It feels more documentary. It keeps the lines parallel and does not introduce distortion or the subjective qualities a smaller lens/film format would.
What's the first time you ever got paid for doing photography?
Not exactly paid but a woman gave me a brand-new N90s to shoot some sports images for her in around 1994. That was a pretty high-end 35mm camera back then. Cleaning out my closet recently I came across it and decided it was time to let it go. It brought about fifty-bucks on Craigslist.
How much Photoshop is too much?
Heavily manipulated images aren’t really my thing. For years I just printed my color images by hand and that worked well enough. I think my darkroom days are over now. But either way the goal is the same, it's just now I have different tools to get me there.
Now that everyone's a photographer, will professionals survive?
There’s a difference between a person who has imagination, style and a sense of how to communicate visually and somebody who just knows how to press a button. Even a dog can take a picture.
Would you rather:
-sleep every night in the back of a Ram Prospector with Tri-Tone Stripes
-have a bmx bike outfitted with a massive stereo system as your only means of transportation
for the rest of your life?
Joe didn't answer this question... "as it seemed a bit jokey."
What’s the value of photographic pieces like this?
Ed Ruscha once said he would drive around with the dial on his car radio set halfway between two stations. I think he said one was jazz and the other was like, Latino top-40. And as he drove the reception would phase in and out creating this chance-based experience of completely disparate things randomly intersecting and creating an audio backdrop for his drive. Sometimes what you get is total dischord. But other times it’s this serendipitous poetry. I think about that a lot.
Why vans? Why do people drive ‘em? What’s do van-owner’s have in common?
That’s the territory I’m trying to explore. I suppose the answer will come with each individual’s reading of the images. Clearly there is pride which comes with owning something which is unusual and one of the last of its kind. In cases where the vehicle has been customized by the owner it presents a glimpse into that individual’s personality and evidence of the human compulsion to turn something which was stamped out on an assembly line into something which is more strongly indicative who we are. Whether or not we might describe it as such, each of us makes hundreds of art-direction choices every day. This project asks whether something as seemingly mundane as choosing a parking spot is actually one of them.
What interests me is examining the juxtaposition between the van’s aesthetic and that of the surrounding architectural and natural elements, and the notion of whether that has occurred consciously, subconsciously or as a result of pure chance. Sometimes I look for situations where it suggests that perhaps the driver chose this arrangement on purpose or maybe somehow the van parked its van-self.
Yellow Dodge with Tri-Tone Stripes Near Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA Spring 2007
Yellow Dodge with Orange Stripes Centinela Boulevard, Los Angeles CA Winter 2009