Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Ten years come and gone so fast!

Yes, somehow, I have been doing this thing now for TEN years! It all started with this blog as a medium. Social media and smartphone were in their infancies. Many still used dial up. People still used AOL chatrooms. I had a Nokia not-so-smart but still pretty cool (for the time) phone, and a clunky digital camera. My love of neon signs as an art and advertising medium long predates November, 2007. But it was a cool gray late autumn day that year I decided to make something of it. Over the course of this project I have driven hundreds if not thousands of miles, countless snaps and edits, and learned the history of Columbus through it's retail story told through advertising and signage. I have taken some amazing photos, and some not so amazing. Each one though is a learning experience in itself.

Of course, this is no longer the golden age of neon. In fact, I started this during what has turned out to be a long decline in neon signage as an art and/or advertising medium. Late 2007 is when the economic downturn known as the "Great Recession" started. Businesses were closing up shop. Entire industries were dying or dead. Neon signs went dark en masse. Those entities that could weather and stay open from this time forward, looked for ANY cost cutting measures they could. Often, this extended to their physical presence on the street. Neon signs came down either while still 100% operational or as they started to lose their functional life. Up came the less expensive and lower power draining LED signs. While those seem like a good idea (who doesn't want to save a few bucks, even in good times?), the quality and craftsmanship are not even remotely close. Another industry and job block, that of sign manufacturers and glass blowers, was shrinking rapidly. And while companies may save a few dollars per month in electric bills by using LED, they don't realize the fact that they need more frequent replacement, usually piecemeal in fashion. The appearance, while somewhat resembling a neon, doesn't come close to the visual pop that a true neon sign can deliver. The LEDs just don't catch the eye the way neon does. While I don't have concrete evidence, I have anecdotally seen an uptick in neon usage over the last couple years. While they may cost a few more in power bills, they undoubtedly bring in more business, which means of course, more revenue and profit. Also, as far as environmental  effects, one could easily single out heating and cooling as MUCH more significant in terms of usage and effect on climate change. It's give and take. Buy an a few bucks on electric bill, but use more heat/cooling and less eyeballs on the street. Neon is an investment that pays off. That is why it was so effectively used in times of economic growth (1950s and 1980s come to mind, when neon was king).

While I lead a busy life with work, children, and many other obligations, I intend to keep this project going on. Showcasing the history and presence of this beautiful use of chemistry in the greatest city in Ohio, as well as efforts to retain and preserve our past. Onto another ten years! Now, of course, most of my posts and thoughts are on social media (though I still occasionally do post to this blog, 10 years on). Find me on Twitter: @ColumbusNeon Instagram: @columbusneon, and my Facebook page, Columbus Neon. Also check out my other photographic interests on instagram at @paulied1977. I shoot other stuff sometimes too!