|This is one of two fold-outs in the book.|
Steve Fitch has been roaming the Plains and far west for years searching for examples of vernacular commercialism before it disappears. His first book 'Diesels and dinosaurs' published in 1976 set the scene with fifty shots of what could be seen from the highway and this new book continues the theme with 127 color photos.
It's an interesting journey with the photos of centuries old traveller way marks and more recent examples of signs for motels and farms, most of the hand painted signs, which have now seen better days, probably will have gone when Fitch returns to their location. These images morph into the essence of the book: motel signs and drive-in movie theaters. The motel signs deliver forty-three wonderful photos of giant arrows, angled poles and irregular shapes bursting out of the ground and painted in contrasting colors. (It's interesting that the word motel is always in capital letters with other words in lower case.) These signs come alive at night with neon lighting up their immediate area, look at the book's front cover for an example of this. Fitch says that many of the signs which he photographed in the eighties and nineties have now gone and this also applies to the drive-in movie theaters, eighteen examples are shown.
Though the book is concerned with vanishing vernacular in the commonplace landscape I wasn't prepared for the last photos in the book: twelve quite extraordinary photos of radio masts. You might wonder how a slither of metal lattice work could generate such creative images but Fitch photographed these uprights in a totally flat landscape at dusk with a background of an almost rainbow colored sky. I found it interesting that although the masts might seem very similar they are different with round communication dishes attached at different points on each mast. Nicely the complete mast is shown in each photo.
Fans of commonplace Americana will enjoy these photos, the book is a handsome production (three hundred screen printing on a lovely matt art) with one photo a page and generous margins. My only (very minor) complaint might be the comprehensive photo captions on eleven pages at the back of the book require a lot page flipping backwards and forwards.