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Ghost signs

Phil Coomes | 09:23 UK time, Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Photo by Tom Bland

Photography can be many different things but one of its central roles is to sell products. Stroll through any major city and it seems as though every surface is plastered with a photograph forming part of an advertisement.

Yet there was a time when this was not so, a time when advertisements were often in the form of text, signs created by craftsmen. If you look closely you can still see the remnants of those times, and Tom Bland has been doing just that, using his camera to preserve the past in the present.

Tom's parents are graphic designers and he remembers growing up surrounded by large drawing boards, kappa board and Letraset and that is what inspired him to take these pictures.

In his notes Tom outlines the project:

"Ghost signs (as they are most commonly known) began to catch my eye when I moved to London, and I inevitably found it fascinating to think about how they'd been created and the level of skill and craftsmanship that was involved. I later realised how attractively some of the signs I was seeing had aged.
 
"I was seeing layers of typography, paint, colour - and combined with the texture of the crumbling and flaking materials, many of them were appealing to me as looking like contemporary pieces of design in the vein of work by the Ray Gun magazine.
 
"I felt that if these faded remnants of the past I was seeing around me were used on new book jackets or record covers for example, they would stand up incredibly well against a new piece of work, the signs having evolved and aged completely naturally in ways that a contemporary designer or illustrator sometimes emulate in their graphic design software."

Some of the shots are straight full frame pictures of the sign and this is something he likes, yet for me some of those that offer scale are the most effective.

Here's a selection of Tom's photographs in the set.

Photo by Tom Bland

Photo by Tom Bland

Photo by Tom Bland

Photo by Tom Bland

Photo by Tom Bland

You can see more of Tom's work on his website.

Inevitably one thinks of the work of Walker Evans who often incorporated text within the frame, though for very different reasons and this is something I will blog on in the near future having recently paid a visit to New Orleans where he worked for a while.

If you have a project you'd like to share with me then please e-mail me viewfinder@bbc.co.uk

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