Portfolio: Photographer Phil Wills catalogues Britain's food vans

You'll get none of your pop-up nonsense here…

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The Independent Culture

Yianni Papoutsis turned food vans into a hipster heaven, his Meatwagon guerilla burger mobile transforming the concept of meals-on-wheels into the most unlikely foodie success story of this decade. Nowadays it's hard to move in the skinny-tie parts of the capital without bumping into a banh-mi bus or a burrito buggy.

But it hasn't always been this way – and, thankfully, it's still not in vast swathes of the land, where food vans continue to do what they have long done: sit in lay-bys and provide nourishment and cheer to lorry drivers and local workers alike.

Phil Wills, photographer and part-time 44-tonne artic-lorry driver, has been shooting these havens of sustenance for nearly a decade, cataloguing them as and when he comes across them. Shooting them head-on, he hopes to capture the differing style of vans around the country, and they are presented with the sort of regard more usually reserved for traditional restaurants.

"I don't have a favourite van owner," says Wills, "but I was impressed with the Brunch Box. The owner proudly showed me a local good-food guide for Powys. Along with gastropubs and fine hotels, he was in it! He did locally sourced sausages, burgers, eggs from nearby farms. It tasted good.

"I always have a bite and a mug of tea if I've photographed a van. I tend to go for an egg banjo – a fried egg in a sandwich; it runs down your front on the first bite, so as you try to remove the yolk from your chest, it looks as though you're strumming a banjo.

"The worst snack I've had was when I saw the marg for my sausage butty had turned to liquid in the summer heat prior to being 'spread' on the bread."

The photographs represent a continuation of Wills' project cataloguing the dwindling numbers of traditional transport cafés across Britain's road network. We can but hope these vans don't head the same way – not when they're as gloriously confident as the audaciously titled Golden Café in Bristol. "Nice Burgers," it promises in elephantine lettering along the side. As nice as Papoutsis's? There's only one way to find out. See you in the West Country…

For more: philwills.com