The Curse of the White Van

Every photographer knows it: the Curse of the White Van. Well, every photographer doing cityscapes and architecture, that is; in portrait or macro photography, it’s much less of an issue.

Photograph taken in the early morning of Saint Lawrence Church in Rotterdam, with a disfiguring white van parked in front of it
White van at Saint Lawrence’s church


So what exactly does it entail, this Curse of the White Van? It’s the phenomenon that a lot of potentially beautiful photos are spoiled because a white van is parked in a place where you would rather not have it. Sick man!

Unsightly white van, parked on the green area behind a row of traditional wooden houses on the island of Marken, The Netherlands
White van on the island of Marken


Of course there are also vans in other colors. Not even mentioning motor vehicles in general. Or traffic signs, advertisements, trash cans, traffic lights, lampposts, signposts, parking meters. And let’s not talk about all those fellow humans who move rather undecoratively through the scene. But nothing attracts so much attention in such an annoying way as a white van.

Evening photo of the Rijnhaven in Rotterdam, with floating purple bulbs, a floating forest, modern architecture and an ugly white van
Find the white van…

Working class heroes

Okay, I also understand that those vans belong to working class heroes who are carrying out urgent repairs at a short distance from their ugly vehicle. And I also understand that such a van is very useful for transporting the necessary tools and materials. But still ‚Ķ can’t they make these motherfuckers transparent?

Photo made on an early winter morning of the cube houses in Rotterdam with a disfiguring white van parked in front of them


Wonderful, such an evening photo of the Theatre Square during the film festival. The beautifully illuminated Doelen concert hall, the Tiger logo, the reflections on the square, even the roof of the railway station is visible. But the image is completely worthless because there is a white van on it. One that even brought its older brother!

Evening photo, taken from a high point of view, from the Schouwburgplein, the Pathe cinema and the Doelen concert hall in Rotterdam with a disfiguring white truck and white van
Little van and its big brother


Occasionally, Photoshop can offer a solution. With content aware fill, small vans can sometimes be magically removed. But usually shopping is futile. Even with a black belt in Photoshop you can’t take the van from this picturesque little street in Groede, the Netherlands (almost Belgium)

Street leading to the church in Groede in the Netherlands (almost Belgium) with a disfiguring white van in the middle of the picture
In Groede, almost Belgium


Are there other strategies conceivable against the Curse? Yes, sometimes it adds value to the picture, such a white monster. But only if it moves. And unfortunately they usually stand still.

White van passing with high speed next to the underpass at Koninginneplein in Venlo, The Netherlands
A moving white monster


If nothing else helps, try to make the van the main subject of the photo. As in the case of the culprit that marred the view of the church in Franeker. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Martini church in Franeker, The Netherlands, reflecting in the rear window of a white van
Reflections in a rear window


Well, maybe it is just a matter of time. Probably in a hundred years we’ll be touched when we see such a characteristic early twentieth-century van on an old digital photograph. Just like the, mostly black, trucks on black-and-white photos from the 1930’s also look pretty nostalgic. But I’m not sure if I want to wait for a hundred years.

Residential building and shopping center Da Vinci in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, with a white van parked in front of it
White van in Alphen aan den Rijn

Update: January 2020

On January 13, 2020 I wrote a short article on LinkedIn about the use of Photoshop in the War against the White Van. A day later, at dawn on the Coolhaven quay, near the De Machinist building, I encountered a few dozen of those white monsters. A connection between the two events has yet to be proven.

These vans even caught the attention of the local media: the Havenloods wrote an article to it. Nobody seems to know who is the owner of the vehicles. But the city’s Parking Authority has fined them all. That will serve them right!

A few dozen mysterious white vans parked at the quay of Coolhaven harbour in Rotterdam at dawn
Mysterious white vans at Coolhaven quay

Take it to the bridge

The driver of this vehicle, in the beautiful historic city center of Amersfoort, really went too far. And the critical reader may think: just wait until it has passed. But no, this white monster was parked on the bridge!

Ugly white van parked on a bridge in the beautiful historic center of Amersfoort, the Netherlands
Parking on the bridge


Sometimes as a photographer you are so intensely involved with your subject that you forget to scan the environment for disturbing elements. This beautiful autumn day, with the sun slowly burning the fog to shreds, was one such moment. Completely overwhelmed by the spectacular light effects above this statue on the Coolsingel, I pressed the shutter. The scooter and the car can be considered functional in this environment; perhaps I should have let that lady go down the escalator first. But the white van is ruining a photo that would otherwise have made the top 10 for 2021 without a doubt.

Coolsingel boulevard in Rotterdam, Holland on a misty day in autumn
White van ruining the special effects

1 Response

  1. al says:

    HILARIOUS ūüôā 3rd picture there is one sneaking in the background.

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