Box Truck Project by Davin Sanchez

First off, give us a little background about yourself and about your photography.
My name’s Davin Sanchez. I was born Baton Rouge, LA. Lived there till I was about six or seven then moved to the house of the mouse (Orlando, FL). That’s where I got interested in the arts. First drawing The Simpsons from the television then eventually really getting into comics. My grand mother gave me a random no name red point and shoot 35mm camera when I was really young. I think I only shot one roll on it. Dumb stuff around the house and the neighborhood. I didn’t start really learning about photography until I hit high school. I was so fortunate to go to a school at the time that had a fantastic arts magnet program. Junior and senior year I took graphic arts classes. We learned so much. How to develop our own film, develop our own prints, silk screening, photoshop, you name it. It was my favorite place to be other than out skateboarding. I moved to Los Angeles in 2005 in search for more opportunity. Been here ever since.

In our increasingly digital society, why do you shoot film?
I’m from that generation where we grew up on analog but also grew up with digital as the new horizon. By day I’m a graphic artist so I’m very much in tune with the digital world and love it but I still have that deep love for film from early years. It’s physical; there is something behind the image being captured on a physical medium. Sounds corny but there’s magic in the grain. It’s really hard to duplicate that digitally. You can come close but it’s never the same. You have to really think about things, take your time and ask yourself, “Is this shot worth the film and post work behind that comes with it?”. But mainly the mystery of the shot. I get so pumped when I develop or pick rolls up. You never know what the film will do especially when expired. I sometimes get the fear that the roll is blank or under exposed after I shoot a bunch. I used to bug and really stress but I found you just have to trust yourself and know your gear.

Tell us a bit about your Box Truck project. What is the inspiration behind it? What initially drew you to the concept?
Box Truck Project is a photo essay on street art on the move, cities and neighborhoods. These trucks drive all over. There a lot of trucks that I’ve shot in LA that are SF artists. Plus the art itself is changing on a daily basis. First off, back in the day I would draw graffiti with buddies in high school. We would draw every night and show up the next day to compare our work. So the love and interest has always been there for the art. But the project really started last year when I was wrapping up a three year daily photo project called Taste.This.Picture. Wondering what the next project will be. During TTP I would come across box trucks and just couldn’t help myself. I love the aesthetic of them against whatever setting that was surrounding them. No matter if it was a intricate piece or just some shitty tags. It said something to me. When I was going through shots I noticed a had a grip of solid shots of box trucks and it hit me that this would be my next project.

Your series includes work from L.A., New York, and San Francisco. What was it like shooting in 3 different cities? Any challenges/difficulties?
If I’m in a bad area of town and shoot a bit too long people start to notice and say shit to you. Other than that no real difficulties. It was fantastic shooting in all those great cities. I was out everyday searching all the different neighborhoods. Sometimes my friend would drive me around scouring the city head out the window just searching for trucks. Sometimes on foot by my self getting lost turning down roads by a hunch. I would love to spend more time in all of them doing more research on the trucks and how they change, and move around the city. But most of all it’s San Fransisco that I can’t wait to get back to. I feel I only touched the surface of what it has to show. I also went to Detroit. I really liked that city. Its like some expired film haha. Dirty, weathered, and fucked up but really cool! I searched the city for two days looking but didn’t find much. But I don’t think that says that it has nothing to offer though.

What sort of films/processes/techniques did you use to achieve the wide range of visual styles in the series?
Love your light meter and when in doubt shoot a stop or two above and below. Most the film used was expired at least by 5 years. The shots that look all gritty and some have pink dots on them was this Super200 from China. Most shots from those rolls didn’t make it but the ones that did I think look pretty cool. I also shot with three different cameras. Mamiya C33 w/ 120 lens, Pentax 6×7 w/ 50mm lens and a good ol’ Canon AE-1 w/ 28-80mm lens. My process consist of a solid scan. No scanner auto tune bs. Bring them into Photoshop and use Color Perfect to balance the negative with their film profiles. Once thats done I do any major dust clean up in Photoshop. Lastly in Lightroom I balance the whites if I’m feeling it. Put a little sharping and usually always throw a nice S curve on it along with playing with the contrast. This usually makes whatever is happening on the film pop.

Films Used

  • 120 Expired Portra 400
  • 120 Expired Fuji NPS 160
  • 120 Expired Afga Optima 200
  • 120 Expired Fuji Provia RPDII
  • 35 Expired Super 200
  • 35 Expired Kodak Gold 200
  • 35 Expired Kodak 100 TMAX
  • 35 Expired Fuji Reala 200
  • 35 Fuji Reala 200

Are you working on any other photographic projects at the moment?
I’m currently wrapping up an archival portrait project that was shot back in May for the arts and music festival FORM: Arcosanti. I shot 280 portraits of 120 film on the 6×7 with a little interview asking who they are, where there from and why they were there. People from all over the world showed up to this very special event in the middle of the desert. There are rough plans for a show for it early next year here in LA. Other than that planning for the next project. I really want to continue shooting portraits. I’ve been interested lately in the classic coming to America family lineage story compared to modern day migration and how we live today. Also thinking about doing interviews and portraits at low income senior housing. The Box Truck Project is ongoing until it stops being interesting to my self.

Anything else you would like to add?
Just I love what you guys are doing. Keep it up. Thank you for your support. Keep film alive and be positive!

Location List

  1.  Gravesend, Brooklyn
  2.  Mid City, Los Angeles
  3.  Mission District, San Francisco
  4.  Soho, Manhattan
  5.  DTLA, Los Angeles
  6.  Chinatown, Manhattan
  7.  Gravesend, Brooklyn
  8.  Alphabet City, Manhattan
  9.  Arts District, Los Angeles
  10.  Vermont Harbor, Los Angeles
  11.  Mission District, San Francisco

The full set of images from the Box Car Project are up on Flickr. You can also find more of Davin’s excellent photography at his website, and on Instagram at @tastethispicture.