Aaron Draplin on the Death of the American Neon Sign

America Is F*cked…….(Graphically at least) from Jess Gibson on Vimeo.

Warning: The above video contains graphic language. If you are offended by profanity you might want to skip it.

My Motel America set was featured on Digg over the weekend. In the comments someone linked to this great video (above) about the death of a neon motel sign.

The video is a short interview with Aaron Draplin talking about a 28 foot motel neon sign that he recently purchased on eBay while he was drunk for $300. In his rant he cringes at the crappy $15,000 ugly plastic sign that the new motel owners put up in it’s place.

So much of American neon is disappearing every single day. Over the past few years I’ve literally watched dozens of signs disappear before my eyes. Personally I’m trying to photograph as much neon as I possibly can. My Neon Days and Neon Nights set currently has 2,656 images of neon in it. I’ve been trying to get out on the road as much as I can and travel to as many new American cities as I can to try and photograph as much neon as possible.

When I was in Chicago earlier this month I shot a ton of the neon in and around Chicago. I shot this one motel sign on a vacant lot. The entire motel had been razed and the only thing left standing was simply it’s old sign. The highlight of my trip was stopping by The Neon Shop, AKA Fishtail Neon, and spending time there with it’s owner Tom Brickler. Tom had some great signs in his store and invited me in to the back room of his shop as well and showed me some fantastic old signs that he had there. It was really a treat.

I’ve created a collection of my neon images as well that tries to break down neon signs by geographical areas. I’ve still got so much work to do in adding more neon images to my library, and unfortunately every day it seems like more and more signs are snuffed out of existence.

Earlier today I joked when I wrote about Hunch that the first question I wanted to ask Hunch was what City should I visit next to shoot neon signs in America? Tom Spaulding, a prolific neon photographer himself said Wildwood, NJ.

What do you think? Where’s the next City I should visit in America to shoot neon?

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  1. Andy Frazer says:

    Last month I shot a bunch of great neon at night in San Luis Obispo. I’ll be uploading more shots over the next few days right here (there’s only three shots so far… more to come):



  2. Sam says:

    Fly to the Midwest and spend a week in Wisconsin and Illinois with a rental car. Visit some small towns, like along the coast of Lake Michigan and in Central Wisconsin & Illinois.

    You’ll see some classic neon signs that are still in operation, at least for now.

  3. Tucumcari, New Mexico has some great vintage neon left. The Blue Swallow Motel is glorious and a great place to stay, too. Gallup, NM had some cool signs on the old Route 66 strip, although I hear some of them are no longer there since I visited 2 years ago.

  4. Camerons in Half Moon Bay, CA still has a ton of neon out front. Next time you come out to visit Robert you should stop by and take some shots.

  5. Hi Aaron, like what you saying. When I was young my Gramma and I were walking downtown ( that was in ’60)I remember lots of neon signs in my small town.Now they all gonne.
    I am an owner ( since 1995) of Neon Sign Co. and we try day after day tell people that neon is the best visible kind of sign.
    I can not stand plastic signs or foam letters also.
    Give me you address I will send you a album about lost Warsaw neons from ’60


  6. by the way ,I’m from Poland 🙂

  7. trentlaceysunxxp says:

    I really liked it. But not bad, it would be to add a few important sections.

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