A series dealing with symbol use and context in the built environment. Symbol use is one of the most powerful tools humans have – our capacity for language allows us to imagine, remember, negate, and think in the abstract. Words describe, persuade, and inform, and (once language has been acquired) heavily augment and enable our perceptions.

In these photographs, I treat words, signs, and messages as part of an ongoing conversation that all societies with written language have with the individual members of that society. In the built environment of modern Western culture, with media such as changeable signs, bumper stickers, programmable LED signs, graffiti, or “dust writing," most of these messages are extremely temporary, and are thus often considered unimportant and promptly "forgotten.”

But even when consigned to the dustbin of the unconscious, the symbolic ephemera that make up so much of our lived visual experience do not cease to affect us symbolically – and so these visual cues continue to have meaning, despite our inattention.

Time tends to strip context from memory, and words and symbols only have meaning in relation to other words and symbols. Lacking any material evidence for these evanescent messages (the sign’s been changed, and the dust has long since been washed from the car), we must rely on our memories to decode meaning. As we forget context, we have a tendency to "fill in the gaps," inventing new contexts for these half-remembered symbols as we grasp for long-lost road maps to meaning and author intention.

photography, language, meaning, context, words, signs