Vintage Neon Project

April 2, 2016

 

     My profession blurs the lines between photography and design. That said, it will be no surprise to you that vintage neon signs are an obsession of mine. These relics made of metal and glass are not only extremely photogenic, they have a graphic design element that seals the deal for me. They have stood the test of time, although many show either subtle or extreme signs of wear. It’s that patina that is most exciting to me… and scares me the most, as many people see them as a blight… something that should be torn down and sent to the scrap heap. Sadly, this attitude prevails across most of the country. Most neon signs have now been replaced with uninspired back-lit plastic. For this very reason I have taken on the task of documenting as many of the remaining signs as I can. I call this labor of love The Vintage Neon Project, which started back in 2013. So far I’ve photographed signs in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming. I tend to plan my vacations around locations that have lots of great signs (just recently in Denver, truly a hotbed for vintage neon).

 

The iconic Elephant Car Wash sign in Seattle, Washington. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates

 

The iconic Elephant Car Wash sign in Seattle, Washington

     The approach I take is, whenever possible, to shoot signs at eye level. I then edit those shots, removing the background to strip away the busyness of the urban environment so the viewer can appreciate the signs for what they are: pieces of art. It’s as if they’ve been taken down and displayed in a gallery. I prefer to shoot signs during the day, for, as I mentioned earlier, the graphic design of each sign is what I find most intriguing, so I want it displayed as clearly as possible.

 So far I’ve photographed signs in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.

 

 

The El Don in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Landmark Motel in St. Petersburg, Florida

The Hills Motel in Tampa, Florida

 

The World Liquor sign in St. Petersburg, Florida. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates

The iconic Elephant Car Wash sign in Seattle, Washington. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates

The iconic Elephant Car Wash sign in Seattle, Washington. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates

The World Liquor sign in St. Petersburg, Florida. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates

Vintage Neon Project

April 2, 2016

 

     My profession blurs the lines between photography and design. That said, it will be no surprise to you that vintage neon signs are an obsession of mine. These relics made of metal and glass are not only extremely photogenic, they have a graphic design element that seals the deal for me. They have stood the test of time, although many show either subtle or extreme signs of wear. It’s that patina that is most exciting to me… and scares me the most, as many people see them as a blight… something that should be torn down and sent to the scrap heap. Sadly, this attitude prevails across most of the country. Most neon signs have now been replaced with uninspired back-lit plastic. For this very reason I have taken on the task of documenting as many of the remaining signs as I can. I call this labor of love The Vintage Neon Project, which started back in 2013. So far I’ve photographed signs in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming. I tend to plan my vacations around locations that have lots of great signs (just recently in Denver, truly a hotbed for vintage neon).

 

 

The iconic Elephant Car Wash signin Seattle, Washington

     The approach I take is, whenever possible, to shoot signs at eye level. I then edit those shots, removing the background to strip away the busyness of the urban environment so the viewer can appreciate the signs for what they are: pieces of art. It’s as if they’ve been taken down and displayed in a gallery. I prefer to shoot signs during the day, for, as I mentioned earlier, the graphic design of each sign is what I find most intriguing, so I want it displayed as clearly as possible.

 So far I’ve photographed signs in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming.

 

 

The El Don in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Landmark Motel in St. Petersburg, Florida

The Hills Motel in Tampa, Florida

 

The World Liquor sign in St. Petersburg, Florida. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates

The World Liquor sign in St. Petersburg, Florida. Part of the Vintage Neon Project by Todd Bates