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Following a recent trip to Canada a friend kindly came back with the third issue of a tidy little magazine called Names and Places. Surprisingly this was actually the only domestic publication to be found among a wide selection of European train mags over there. Anyway as it happens Names and Places turns out to be a real gem!

Hailing from Toronto the publication solely documents the use of the van as a mobile ‘surface’ in urban spaces. The introduction to the magazine sets out a specific aim to demonstrate how the choice of surface can situate graffiti within a particular space and how film photography can capture this “sense of place”. Although the idea of utilising a moving surface for graffiti is hardly restricted to vans they do provide a unique, street-level, moving canvass that can cover any given urban area almost unrestricted. There is a nice mix of vans reproduced that are covered in various tags, throw-ups, styles, chromes and colours. These contributions, from four different photographers, all have a really nice quality to them which perhaps reflects the use of film or the standard of production.

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Aside from the brilliant shots of vans taken in their urban contexts what really brings this publication together is the text. Made up of an intro and a six part essay to accompany the photos the monograph provides a thoughtful examination of the subject. It’s explained that rather than being a localised event, graffiti placed on vans becomes an all-city phenomenon because of the utility of the vehicle. The nature of this transient surface may also allow graffiti to remain much longer than on other locations such as a train or shutter.

Graffiti is always specific to its location but when placed on a van this peculiarity changes with the movement of the vehicle. An example given is of a graffed-upped van being unloaded in a bustling market compared to the same vehicle sitting forlornly elsewhere in an empty yard. The mobility of the painted surface can prove a problem for the photographer as there may only be a small window of opportunity in which to catch it. However the advantage of photographing vans is that each picture taken conjures up a unique situation in which it was captured.

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Volume three of Names and Places is a thoughtfully produced publication. The photographs are of a good quality while the author has something interesting to say about the topic. The magazine doesn’t focus on vans simply for their novelty but rather as a way of exploring how graffiti interacts with the urban environment.