A new photography book has been published that explores the colourful history of North America’s commercial neon signs. Containing approximately 200 images, Neon Road Trip charts signs that still remain today, including sixteen of the most iconic landmarks around, and the history behind how each unique piece came to be made.

Las Vegas Neon Sign
The book contains around 200 images of neon signs across North America © John Barnes / Neon Road Trip

Published by Gibbs Smith, the book contains images by photographer John Barnes, and the story of his mission to chart as many neon signs as possible, a task that began back in Sacramento in 1978. The birth of his project was a direct result of a proposed ordinance by the Sacramento City Council that sought to limit the use of neon advertisements, citing that they were a distraction to drivers.

Samba Neon Sign
The beginning of the project dates back to 1978 © John Barnes / Neon Road Trip

“I began traveling around at night photographing neon signs. Then, several years ago I was in Las Vegas for a wedding and did a tour of the Neon Museum and was surprized at how much neon was sitting there in their boneyard. That night, I went out looking to photograph some neon signs around Las Vegas and there were not many. So I decided to travel around the US and photograph as many interesting and iconic neon signs as I could. The book is a result of that neon road trip,” John Barnes told Lonely Planet. John spent two-and-a-half years travelling North America, visiting 38 states and four Canadian providences, and photographed somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 images.

Neon Road Trip book
The book also includes the history and background of the signs © John Barnes / Neon Road Trip

The book also includes a “Neon Museums Visitor’s Guide” and an index, by state, of the signage featured throughout. As well as a collection of stunning images, the book outlines a brief history about how neon signage took off from the 1930s on and became symbols of American highways and urban spaces. He even goes into the science behind the signs, with how neon and argon work to create the functional art pieces. 

More information on John and his work is available at his official website.  Neon Road Trip is available through the Gibbs Smith website.

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