When I was in Las Vegas working on the Nighthawks series, I made a few photographs of some neon lights. I couldn’t help myself. They were all over the place, each one bigger and gaudier than the one before. I kept on doing the city drive-bys for another year of so, but I always had those neon lights in the back of my mind.
So I went to Las Vegas in the spring of 2008 with the idea of finding out if there was a resonance between me and the lights. At first I had no idea what I was doing, except that I knew camera motion was going to be an important part of it. I also knew that, because neon and LED signs turn on and off rapidly, that the result of moving the camera would be a set of overlapped stroboscopic effects, rather than blur.
I had a big success the first night (the Hard Rock Café guitar), and that gave me the motivation to push through all the things that didn’t work and find the few that did. Early on, I experimented with and discarded the idea of taking a documentary approach to the signs.
While this felt like one series for the photographer, I can see that to someone who is looking at the results there are really at least two bodies of work: the completely abstract work, and the distortions of the video signs. The former is all about patterns and form, while the latter is more social commentary, verging on satire. There’s a third thread that I’ve already spun off into the PhotoCalligraphy series. After five trips, I’m about out of ideas for all but the calligraphy work. I hope that’s a temporary thing. I’ll set it aside for a while and see how I feel in the fall. There’s always the option of picking up stakes and moving the series elsewhere (Times Square? Tokyo?).