Flickr Set of The Month

Posted by Rob Walker on February 11, 2009
Posted Under: Flickr Artifacts,Q&A

Here is the second in The Murketing Organization’s series (explained earlier) of occasional mini-portfolio/short Q&As, relating to a particular set discovered on Flickr that has some relationship to this site’s subject matter. Once again Tom Hosford, of Washington & Lee University handles Q&A duties, this time interviewing the photographer who created this set of Vernacular Typography Polaroids. (This Q&A was delayed due to my technical difficulties; apologies to both interviewer and interviewee.) Take it away, Tom…

This set features the work of designer/photographer Douglas Wilson, who traveled across the U.S. and documented the hand-painted signs he encountered along the way.  His Polaroids captured a broad range of communities, each represented by the signs they possessed. — Tom Hosford

Q: From looking at these photos, it seems like you’ve managed to see a lot of states across the U.S.  Were you in these places for any given reason, or did you just want to explore small towns across America?

A:  Simply put, I love traveling. I have been blessed to visit 48 of the 50 United States (minus Alaska and Idaho). Many of my Polaroids were taken driving to visit my wife’s family in Jackson, Mississippi. To get there, we have to drive through many small towns in Missouri and Arkansas and they have some pretty amazing hand-painted signs. I have to admit that many times, I have turned the car around just to photograph a particular sign — you never know when these signs will be painted over or replaced!

What made you to decide to document your travels through photographing local signs, instead of landmarks, people, etc.?

I suppose I didn’t set out to “document a place in a different way” it just happened. Anyone can take pictures of landmarks and people (and that is a good thing) but I feel that you can also get a feel for a place through their signage.

Why choose Polaroids to capture these images?

Because they are unique and one-of-a-kind. They can never be perfectly duplicated and they can never be photographically perfect. It is the same reason that I prefer hand-painted signs to vinyl/computer-generated signs. They are special and they are dying out and they need to be preserved.

You mention on your website that you “sometimes fall asleep with typography books.”  What is it about typography that makes you so passionate about it?

I know it sounds silly, doesn’t it? I just simply love letterforms. I love the subtle differences and unique ways that sign-painters would create their letters. So much can be said using typography and so much can be overlooked — I guess I just like looking closer. thanks Mr. Wilson. If you missed the links above, his site is, and his Flickr stream is here. Check ’em out.

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Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Hi Rob

Have you checked out Bryan Collins’s Journal of Urban Typography?

Written By Guy on February 18th, 2009 @ 12:59 pm
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