Welcome to Ghost Signs, v. 3! The previous versions were low-quality grabs of grainy low-def video tape, which was fine half a decade ago. But today’s discerning web patrons request – nay, demand – a better standard, so I’ve dumped the old pictures in favor of the gallery you’re about to see. It includes a few contributions from readers as well, notable for the higher quality than those I’ve shot.
Most of these come from Minneapolis; more will follow. On the left, a building in Chelsea in New York; it was taken many years ago, and was probably replaced by a gigantic condo hours after I took the picture. It wasn’t exactly a going concern at the time, as you can tell. Whatever business J & F Grotta had, it’s long gone, along with the New York they serviced.
What’s the appeal of these ads? Simple: they're ruined and forgotten, which gives them a certain lonely poignance. No doubt in their time the high-minded civic-virtue preachers railed against such commercial pollution. The same sorts might advocate for their preservation today. They remind us of an era before gigantic electrical signs, a day where such giant colorful ads added life to the streets in a way billboards can't. They usually tout brands or names that vanished from common discourse decades ago; their persistence and survival is the result of neglect or disinterest. It’s said that the rain brings them out - after a storm, you can see the ghosts anew, make out a name. Then they fade back into the bricks again, until the day when not even the rain can revive them.
The following shots were taken in 2003 – 06. Enjoy.
--J. Lileks 07