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Buzzing Lights : The Fading Neon Landscape in North America

The Madonna Inn

The Madonna Inn Photo : Tanja Tiziana

In 1991 when I was eleven years old my family (mom, dad, aunt, uncle, and four cousins) flew from Toronto, Canada to caravan up PCH from Anaheim (err, Disneyland) to San Francisco. It was a significant cultural departure from our regular spring break pilgrimage to the topical Gulf Coast of Florida where we typically pigged out on orange flavored bubble gum balls and crushed on manatees.
The first night after leaving the Magic Kingdom was spent in San Louis Obispo at the Madonna Inn. If you’ve not familiarized yourself with this place, I’d suggest taking a moment to do so now. In short, the whole place is a relic of an era of American culture that the rest of the country has either torn down or renovated in favor of various tones of beige or taupe. Instead the character and design flair of yore has here been preserved from top to bottom. Everything here is original, or has been replaced with materials as close to the original as can be sourced.
In these modern days maintaining such a thorough all encompassing commitment to the preservation of ancient kitsch is sadly both rare and costly; anybody who’s traveled cross country, or even quarter country, has undoubtedly noted and enjoyed the neon signs scattered along Americas roadsides and while fashioning businesses with technicolor carpets and grandeur multi-story chandeliers is no longer en vogue (nor economical), isn’t it splendid that the neon signs survived?
Now back to Toronto where photographer Tanja-Tiziana, lives and works from a converted 19th century train factory. In her east-facing studio space she has regrouped after ten years of (probably) countless tours across the continent documenting, and subconsciously stockpiling photographic mementos of neon signs, all of which have now been assembled into an cohesive and impressively sized collection.
“Buzzing Lights” is a photo series that is being published in full color.
The book documents famous and infamous neon signs she’s either found along her travels or made an effort to track down based on recommendations from her fans and collectors. Her decade long adoration of the dying art form is deep rooted, Tanja explains, “From small window signs to giant highway motel beacons, each one of those signs was crafted by hand. The glass tubes bent and shaped masterfully, then filled with gasses and electrified. It’s magic, science and art all twisted together into a very cool glow-in-the-dark package… and I’m like a moth, I suppose – drawn to the light.”
Buzzing Lights: The Fading Neon Landscape in North America, will be in print autumn 2015
The presence of SoCal specimens is strong – from the familiar Felix sign near USC to the less familiar Route 66 Motel in Needles en route to Arizona the publication clearly has a soft spot for our beloved neon.
Tanja has launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund it the 1st edition. Fun funding (alliteration intended) incentives range from who-knows-what-magic-will-appear expired film to an actual neon sign… or of course a copy of the book itself.
“There is such an amazing and enamoured cult of followers for neon signs. I am looking to them to pitch in and help me show the world what they’ve known all along: That this is an artform worth preserving and worth celebrating.”
Check out BUZZING LIGHTS and help fund it if it floats your boat and you like presents in the mail.


San Bernadino Orange sign

San Bernadino Orange sign Photo : Tanja Tiziana

Roosevelt Hotel Photo : Tanja Tiziana

Roosevelt Hotel
Photo : Tanja Tiziana

Route 66 Motel Photo : Tanja Tiziana

Route 66 Motel
Photo : Tanja Tiziana

Check out more of Tanja’s work here.
Buzzing Lights has a fun Tumblr
Tanja on IG

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