Pay attention, vintage typography enthusiasts: the old signs of California’s San Fernando Valley are now being showcased on Instagram. Sweetsignbro has been documenting the area’s “best illuminated signs” before, he notes, “they’re all torn down and replaced with shit.” The LA-based site Valley Blahg first alerted us to this project.
Though these signs are essentially a form of advertising–in this case, kitschy advertising–they nevertheless remain in our urban cultural memory. Many people would argue that they are worth preserving because they stand as a testament to mid-century Americana. Are these signs worth saving as much as, say, the old churches that are so often threatened with demolition?
The vintage signs serve as reminders of The Valley’s long and rich history, which, according to Valley Relics, is “too easily lost and forgotten to the test of time”. When California’s longtime eatery Henry’s Taco’s closed down, the iconic 50-year-old sign was preserved in the hands of the Valley Relics preservation group. These signs were popularized during the 1920’s and 1930’s, dotting the Californian landscape as a form of art and advertisement. Diners and motels illuminated the night, until the 1960’s witnessed a steep decline in the use of neon.
Maybe the signs are in very real danger of being wrongly torn down or forgotten, and Sweetsignbro is some doing some much-needed historical documentation. The project is similar to Thomas Rinaldi’s book New York Neon, which documents New York City’s disappearing neon signs. But for the more artistically-minded who believe that his photographic efforts transcend historical purposes, the stunning photos are at least properly labeled on Instagram: with a #signgeeks and #signporn.