No Peddlers, Antelope, Oregon, 2008
This “No Peddlers” sign is festooned in glittery stars and flanked with a banner of contiguous American flags. Americans take pride in being an open society, yet here we see an exclusionary sign dramatically flanked with patriotic embellishments. Incongruous symbols in juxtaposition tell the story.
No Trespassing, Pondosa, California, 2008
Years of weathering has turned this sign into an abrupt command that works on four levels. The words are self-explanatory. The upper case typography is forbidding. And the combination of faded blue letters and dirt-coated silvery background add a layer of negative symbolism. The massive rusty nails punctuate the message.
Remnant, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 2008
A stubborn remnant of Klamath Falls’ past clings to the side of a downtown office building. While the old sign’s content is now illegible, it once advertised a business that has probably long since vanished. The symbolic mass of faded paint asks more of the imagination than the intellect.
Refreshment, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 2008
There is an abundance of signage on this vending machine near the Oregon State Tourist Bureau. But the dominant feature here is the gesturing candy bar. I’ve tried to bring candy bar to life by filling half of my frame with a stone wall. The head of the candy bar seems to explode out of it, as if it has just spotted us looking its way. The layering effect animates the image, bracketing the gesturing candy bar between the wall and the smaller figure of a chocolate bar. By humanizing this candy bar, we see it as a symbolic invitation to pleasure.
Restrooms, Chemult, Oregon, 2008
The large scale of the faded Restrooms sign on this abandoned service station is even more incongruous given the battered context in which I place it. The sign is offering a service to customers who will never again use it. The dilapidated wall and overgrown yard symbolically tell us so. The door remains stoutly locked, but its scarred surface tells us of the blows it has received from vandals.
Hotel window, Shaniko, Oregon, 2008
The ornate lettering of the sign on the window of the Hotel Shaniko is the focal point of this image. Adding context is the wavy reflection of buildings that surround it. The reflected buildings and the lacy curtain floating behind the window symbolize Shaniko as the ghost town it has become.
A blizzard of signs, Chiloquin, Oregon, 2008
We have come to take signage pollution for granted, filtering out the signs that mean nothing or little to us, and focusing only the signage of interest. The camera, however, brings a much less selective eye to the scene. We must force it to shoot selectively. In this image, I deliberately shoot unselectively, because I wanted to replicate what is really out there on this street.. Chiloquin is a small town, yet the level of signage pollution is very high, dominated by the signage of the gas station in the foreground. There is also a banner curled upon itself hanging over the main street, a stop sign, street sign, and furniture store signage crowding this image. These symbolic signs tell a story: there is so much here to sell, and so few to sell it to.
Choices, Bend, Oregon, 2008k
This restaurant is tucked away in the back of a small shopping complex. It is patronized primarily by locals, who already know what they want to eat, and order accordingly. An outsider is faced with the daunting task of reading this specials menu, which is scrawled on a blackboard in six colors of chalk. (It is much easier to read the “fee for whining” sign than to read the menu.) A closer look takes us into the kitchen itself, where still more signs and labels appear. I wanted my viewers to partake of the same travel experience here that I did. And so I offer this chaotic symbolic jumble of simple choices, yet made as difficult as possible.
That good coffee, Chemult, Oregon, 2008
The restaurant signage in the previous image was complex and almost illegible. The restaurant signage in this image is simple and easy to read. And so I organized this image accordingly, building its coherence around two primary colors, red and yellow. The restaurant serves not just any coffee -- it prides itself on serving “THAT GOOD coffee.”
By symbolically summing up their prize product so simply, the restaurant makes it easy for their customers to grasp. And I make this image just as simple.
The Candidate, Klamath Falls, Oregon, 2008
Since candidates for President of the United States can’t appear in person in every little city and town, a full color, life sized cardboard sign often provides a surrogate. I found this surreal cardboard likeness of John McCain staring back at me through the locked glass door of the local Republican Party headquarters at 1022 Main Street. The symbolic “behind closed doors” metaphor here is well suited to any political subject. McCain’s two-dimensional stand-in was wearing a bizarre red T-shirt promoting his candidacy, adding an unintentionally incongruous twist. I also made sure to include the credit card stickers plastered on the glass door in my image – politicians are always in need of contributions. As for that “Please use other door” request, it posed a touch of delicious irony. The rival Democratic Party headquarters was located just next door.
The Wagon Wheel Café, Chemult, Oregon, 2008
This sign, up on top of the café, is definitely indeed to be seen by night, rather than in the unsparing light of day. I used my full 420mm zoom to reveal the truth about this sign. Its neon might work perfectly, but the condition of the paint incongruously screams for repairs, a symbol of neglect. I wonder how many patrons even bother to look up at it? The locals probably take it for granted, and out of towners will first see it from a distance, and by the time they get close, their eyes will already be on the parking lot.