The Sign Painters

June 14, 2013

A strong motivation for wanting to make and film signs being made in Haiti had to do with the fact that my father was a sign-painter. From the ages of about ten to fifteen I would accompany him on his weekend jobs as a kind of pocket-money apprentice. Somehow the work I’ve been doing with Tele-Geto over the last few years has something to do with this personal back story, my own path into the arts and an attempt to reconnect this to the younger artists in Haiti. So, although it’s a little off-topic for Zombi Diaspora, I thought I’d post this trailer for a video that has recently been made (and a book too) about sign-painters in the US that has the kind of glossy, wet feel I was dreaming of when I set out to make the Tele Geto Sign Painting Video.

It is interesting to note that the invention of the automated vinyl letter plotter that made many sign-painters in the US throw in the towel in the early 1980’s had the same effect on UK sign-writers like my dad who found themselves competing for trade with their automated ‘plasti-sign’ adversaries.

GSP Vinyl Letter Plotter

This was one of those formative moments when one becomes aware of how precarious even the most respected artistic trades are in the face of machine innovation, increased demand and faster turn-over. One of the things that I love about the visual street culture of Haiti was the almost complete absence of machine-made signs and photographic printing, even when they were advertizing computers.

Computer sign PAP

(Click to enlarge. The detail is well worth seeing up close.)

Thanks to Randy Lee Cutler for pointing me to the video.

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