You find a lot of interesting people through Instagram, especially those with a photographic tilt. When I ran across an account named poteetphoto run by photographer Stefanie Poteet I instantly fell in love with the retro road signs she was documenting and wanted to learn a little more about why she is drawn to these aging relics, so I reached out and asked her a few questions.
TRP: What is your photography background?
SP: I am primarily self taught, but took a few photography classes in San Diego for fun. I started with a point and shoot my sophomore year of college, and went from there.
TRP: How and when did you fall in love with retro signage?
SP: Driving across the country in 2009 I stopped at the Supai Motel on Route 66 in Seligman, AZ. I put that sign in my viewfinder and fell in love. It’s been vintage signs ever since, to the point they shape my travel plans.
TRP: What compels you to photograph them?
SP: A sign to me is a work of art. I see the hours spent building the sign and bending glass tubes. I see the effort put into design aesthetic and the unique features that are truly relics of our past. These signs are iconic, and the businesses they were built for are the fabric of this country. They are Americana.
TRP: Are you a constant traveler or do you take trips here and there? Is it mostly solo travel or do you have a travel partner?
SP: I would love (bold, underline, exclamation mark), and am working towards, traveling full time… but for the past 5 years I’ve taken as many trips as possible. Long weekends, vacations, and the Chasing Neon trip I took this summer with my sister and her dog. With the exception of a few solo day trips I’ve always had a travel companion with me: photographer friends, fellow sign geeks, my sister, parents or my boyfriend, Dale. Whenever possible Dale and I are on the road, and we pair vintage sign hunting with brewery, bottle shop, and craft beer bar stops.
TRP: How long have you been doing this road trip?
SP: The Chasing Neon trip lasted for 4 months, from mid June to mid October. We drove 26,944 miles and I shot more than 15,000 photographs, including more than 1,000 signs.
What was the motivation behind it?
SP: I’d wanted to take an extended trip for several years, but decided to do so this year because of how quickly signs are disappearing from our landscape. I partially funded the trip through Kickstarter, and was on the road shortly after the project launched online. My goal was to artistically document as many signs as I could before they were gone. I also want to use my photography to help promote awareness, and if possible, save signs before they are lost. Neon is awe inspiring, and I want future generations to experience it for themselves.
TRP: Are you a beer fan?
SP: Before meeting (my boyfriend) Dale two years ago, the only beer I’d had was a sip of Guinness. Dale has made it his goal to find a beer that I enjoy, so I’m constantly tasting what he’s drinking. Together we’ve discovered I’m a fan of sours, and there’s a Rare Barrel bottle release in a few months that I am very much looking forward to. I get a kick out of visiting new breweries and experiencing their aesthetic and culture. It’s been a fun adventure thus far.