CC Streetscape: This Ain’t American Graffiti


‘Tagging’, that controversial combination of vandalism and urban self-expression, made its way from the US to Europe in the late 1970s and has taken deep root there ever since. In the Paris area, where most of these photos were taken, cleaning up after taggers remains a significant expense: more than 4.5 million Euro (around USD $6 million) per year, according to one estimate.

What’s the CC connection? Well, Paris’ famous covered markets are serviced by a fleet of independently owned, small box vans and refrigerated trucks (many quite old) that serve as sort of portable warehouses to feed the market stalls throughout the day. Parking spaces designated for delivery are tight and limited in number, so to get a good spot one often has to get there the night before the market day. White truck sitting unattended overnight: tagger comes along with his or her spray can, and voila. The police do what they can, and persons caught tagging can be fined thousands of Euros for a single offense, yet the practice goes on.

Lowest of the low are those who mark their presence with little more than a hastily-scrawled signature. These are generally considered pure blight by anyone not a tagger themselves.


Peugeot Boxer, 10th Arrondissement, Paris



Peugeot Boxer, 12th Arrondissement, Paris


One small step up are the more ambitious characters who spell out their street names in calligraphy, in forms known as ‘bubble’ or ‘wild style’, among others.


Iveco Daily, Zone Industriel du Coudray, Le Blanc Mesnil



Mercedes TN/T1, 12th Arrondissement, Paris



Renault B80, 12th Arrondissement, Paris

Of considerably greater interest are the more elaborate mural-like works created by multi-member ‘crews’ and that may take several hours to create. Some of these are likely to be actually commissioned, or at least tacitly approved, by the vehicles’ owners.


Renault B70, 12th Arrondissement, Paris



Saviem SG-series. 12th Arrondissement, Paris



Toyota Dyna, Geneva


This is just a taste. Although I’ve long had an interest in photographing urban ephemera of various types, I’ve tended not to focus much on vehicle graffiti. If you want to see more, a pretty good treatment of the subject can be found here.



Postscript: if you happen to be in Paris and care to seek out some of this on your own, look to the side streets near one of the covered markets, such as the Marche d’Aligré in the 12th Arrondissement. Other possibilities are the gentrifying warehouse district near the Porte de Pantin, along the Boulevards La Villette and Belleville, and near the Canal de l’Ourcq, all in the northeast part of the city.