"Open" is a visual survey of hand-painted commercial signage in Louisiana photographed over the last two decades. The book celebrates entrepreneurialism at its most elemental phase—the micro-business. In lieu of more costly plastic, printed, or metal signage, proprietors often turn to local (many self-taught) illustrators to execute texts and images necessary to promote their businesses. Cinder block, tin, or wooden buildings routinely serve as ready canvases.
Many micro-business operate without benefit of website, social media, wifi, city "incubators," or conventional investments. As a practical matter, owners utilize their structures and vehicles to beckon street traffic. Signage with vibrant color pallets, bold images, and personal slogans are employed on any available surface.
Statistically, nearly 50% of all start-ups in the US fail in the first year and 90% within 5 years. Their graphic designs, illustrations, and typography disappear along with the shuttered businesses. With each closure, walls are painted over, signage discarded, and a new enterprise follows. Many of the images in this survey no longer exist—ephemeral reminders of both optimism and economics.
The beauty of solo enterprise, start-ups, and micro-businesses is that they spring up with regularity. In a world of franchised landscapes, the hand-painted sign reflects humanity and illustrates an enduring dream in common with all entrepreneurs.
This work was made possible in part by a grant from the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development.