Whatever it was, the impulse continued. In the 10 years that have followed that first, unplanned snapshot, my collection of neon sign pictures—all captured on the same Polaroid camera—has grown to more than 200.
I never planned this to be a long-term art project. Those first images were spontaneous actions. I don't even remember the towns where some of the earliest signs were found. But as the years have passed, my fascination with these dated landmarks has only grown.
Anyone who ventures out on a road trip with me must be forewarned: I will ask to stop or turn around in nearly every small town along the way. That's where some of the best vintage signs are to be found, in small towns beside dusty roadside bars, rundown cafes or defunct drive-in movie theaters.
All of the images are linked in both subject matter as well as format.
I don't remember a time when I haven't been in love with Polaroid film. My favorite childhood family photographs were all taken on our old Polaroid camera. I still have that camera, complete with some old, unused flash strips.
I keep my stacks of pictures in an old Kodak film box, and when I lift the lid, it's like diving into my own personal time capsule. It's a travel diary of sorts, reminding me of old friends, stories and journeys past.
As I flip through the square images, I realize how personal and profound a journey it's been for me. Because of that, I was reticent to publish them and share them with the public.
The process of capturing these images is what resonates with me. Anyone can see these signs and take these pictures, but the journey to create this collection has made them uniquely mine.
I am sometimes filled with regret as I look through these Polaroid images because I think of all the great signs I have missed along the way. Some of them I took for granted and now they're gone.
I think of the old Rosebud Tavern sign on State Street in Boise. I never took the time to stop and pull out my camera; then one day, it was gone, replaced by a new, characterless version. Today, the tavern is gone, along with the new sign.
Idaho is filled with a beautiful assortment of these old neon markers, each one telling a tale of people and times now fading as quickly as the painted signs. This collection is just a tiny fraction of those old landmarks remaining in Idaho. I hope they resonate with you as much as they do with me.