Sign of the Times

I love these 'ghost sign' photographs by UK photographer Tom Bland.  They remind me of some of the ones you used to be able to see in Saint John, especially a big Red Rose Tea one - was it on Prince William?  Wonder if they are still there... may have to make my own series when I get back to NB this summer!
Mr. Bland (shall I call him Tom?) had graphic designers as parents and was raised watching them at work. In his own words:

My parents are graphic designers, working as a duo from home in rural Northumberland. I grew up watching them go about their work on a big drawing board using a scalpel, spray mount, kappa board, acetate and letraset. [...] They’re now fully Mac-based of course, as I am myself – but when I think back to how they used to work it never ceases to amaze me how they were able to create what they did and work that way.
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 likes of Tomato or 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 contemporary designers or illustrators often emulate.
[...] Aside from the design and craftsmanship element, I love how ghost signs temporarily teleport you into the past, to a time when there were no digital billboards cluttering our view of the city. Having grown up in the countryside I often find myself wishing I didn’t see the visual pollution of advertisements everywhere I turn and wonder what it would take for London to emulate São Paulo and place a ban on billboards.
For the full quote, and all of his amazing "Sign of the Times" photographs, please check out his Flickr page or his website.


  1. Didn't they fix up the Red Rose Tea building? Turn it into condos or something? I think they sandblasted the outside when they did it.
    Would you care for company on your uptown walkabout? -Kendra

  2. There was one of these 'ghost signs' on Prince William (at the corner of Prince William and Duke, facing Saint John High), but it was an old Coca Cola ad. It was there when I went to SJH ten years ago, not sure if it's still there now.

  3. That's right, I'm signing my name with a 'k' at the end now.

  4. Hey Daniel! That is exactly the one I was thinking of - thanks for reminding me! Kendra, we will definitely have to do a photo tour of Saint John. I can't wait for us to both be home for a whole month at the same time! It will be just like the good old days... :) (what - 20 years ago now?? holy geez.)

  5. Thanks for blogging about my work here Lisa, really appreciate it, and glad you like my ghost sign photos.


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