Monday, December 13, 2021

Sign Language

Opera House, Randsburg, California

Famous ABC Beer, Keeler, CA

I hadn’t given it much thought till I posted the Art Deco signs from Oklahoma City’s Automobile Alley a few weeks back. That’s when it occurred to me that I’ve been fascinated by signs since I was a kid. Signs, it seems to me, say a lot about a place at a point in time. That was true about the handsome mid-century signs in OKC and of weathered and peeling ones that tell us that a place’s time has passed. It no surprise that my favorites populate latter camp. Despite my interest I’ve made no demonstrable effort to photograph signs over the decades. If I see one that I like, I’ll take its portrait and that’s that. I even started a portfolio of signs 15 years ago. It was tepid effort at best. Some of that are included today are from the portfolio which I called Signs of Times back in 2006, so named because signs speak so eloquently of the era in which they were painted, assembled, and mounted.

Valve In Head Buick Motorcars, Oklahoma City, OK.

Navajo Handmade Jewelry here, near Monument Valley, AZ.

Nothing sold here, Peñasco, NM.

Another appeal to signs is my abiding appreciation of graphics and design, generally. A sign that is mostly logo or logo type is the simplest. Other signs may reinforce the notion that Buick is a handsome, elegant, and substantial machine. Others may present a benefit promise like “Clean Restrooms” or “Navajo Handmade Jewelry Here.” Sometimes the sign is void of a message. And empty vessel tells a different kind of story.

I beg your pardon.

Sign can be handsomely presented or gone to seed. Like the decaying buildings in the desiccated landscape that I favor, signs that advertise something that no longer exits are the most poignant. They can be funny, too, or attention grabbers like Egg Slut the egg dish emporium in LA’s Grand Central Market. In the shot above the provocative name vies with the implausibly beautiful customer for our attention. My choice is clear. I like signs but I'm not dead yet.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Your long-kept interest and love of signs has made you part of the photo-journliastic and documentary photography world. I love the Egg Slut photograph, not necessarily because of the name of the sign, but because of the way the woman in the photograph accentuates her surroundings. It is a perfectly balanced catch. The selective use of color in the Opera House at Randsburg, California, again, emboldens the design elements in the photograph. Nicely done all around, Steve.