“Hey man, what are you doing?”
I paused from taking this picture as I was in a questionable part of town (albeit during daylight) and I didn’t know the person who was walking up to me.
“I’m taking a picture of that sign. They don’t make ’em like that any more.”
“Really? That’s crazy.”
I take pictures of old hotel signs and other points in time because they remind me of time when America had distinctive regional culture, anchored by cars, mobility, and a desire to experience the open road.
Many of the contemporaries of the “Far West Motel” sign no longer exist – they’ve been knocked down, replaced with chain hotels, or simply lost relevance in a world of airplanes, telepresence, and cell phones – and what travelers crave these days is consistency. If you know what you’re going to get before you get to a hotel in a strange city (note the lack of motels today), that’s one more bit of certainty in an uncertain world.
So for the gentleman who walked down the street and asked, “what are you doing?” I now know the answer. I’m a documentary photographer, making sure that we don’t forget there was a time when swoopy hotel signs were a beacon of friendliness and style on the open road, waiting for the next traveler. There are a few versions of this in today’s world – the boutique hotel, the hipster remodel, and the theme hotel – and I hope that people will keep seeking out unique adventures just because they want to see something new.