A Sign of the Times

Written by Sally White

As technical communicators, we are awash in words every single work day. Words. We write them, we edit them, we analyze them, we spell check them, we rearrange them, and then we rearrange them again. At times, it feels as though we are drowning in them.


From email, to manuals, to online help documentation, to articles, to technical reports and studies, it seems that we writers and editors live and breathe these little strings of letters and marks. So it only makes sense that we would want to get away from them once our work day has ended. I’d take a gamble by saying that most technical communicators have interests and hobbies that transport them far away from their typical workdays. Or do they?

For me, the getaway avocation is photography. With all those documents surrounding me eight hours a day Monday through Friday, it makes sense that I’d want to say adios to the letters, the semicolons, the verb tenses, and the conjugations. On the weekends, I exchange my keyboard for a Canon. My camera allows me the opportunity to see the world differently, to study people and details and colors and lighting and nuances that I likely wouldn’t otherwise notice.


When the furnace-like summer temperatures begin to wane and give way to cooler days in Las Vegas, opportunities for photo ops and exploration explode. The streets of the city are filled with every zany caricature imaginable, folks destined to fill the pages of a modern day convoluted Dickens tale. They are here in all their glory.

There’s Elvis! Fat Elvis! Old Elvis! Young Elvis! Blonde Elvis! Huh? No, wait, it’s an entire gaggle of Elvi! Check out the transvestite showgirls! How much did those tourists pay for their three-foot-tall cocktails in plastic glasses with colorful straws and fruit chunks dangling from the rims? Hey, there’s a guy who spray painted himself gold from head to toe and is standing motionless while attempting to fool the tourists into believing he is a statue! Good grief! Where did those faux hippies come from, sitting on the ground, strumming their guitars, channeling Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie? Eeks! Those tightly laced leather corsets on the hookers look most uncomfortable. How about those confused businessmen, far from their staid home towns, taking a break from their conventions to drink in the sites? Yep, Las Vegas hosts a cavalcade of characters like no other city on earth.


So on a recent photo walk, I was ready to capture them all, every zany oddity I saw. I snapped away. Here. Over there. Quick! Don’t miss that shot! Wow, did you ever see anything like that before? Holy cow! Who knew? It was a day of non-stop shutter bugging. Hours were spent composing the perfect shot, waiting for folks to get out of the way so I could get a clear view, seeking the perfect light, making numerous attempts to capture the jaw-dropping magic that only Vegas can provide.

When I returned home and began to download the day’s haul, I noticed a curious pattern taking place. It was a sign. And another sign. And another. And another. Yes, I had spent most of the afternoon snapping photos of signs! The lettering on one so unusual. Another with great colors and mood. Yet another with swirling letters surrounded by a colorful martini glass. After my attempts to get away from the words of my “real” life, I realized I couldn’t get away from them after all.


So, it’s settled. Call me a logophile. Say I’m a lexophile. A word nerd. A geek. Think what you will. It’s all okay with me. My love affair with those squiggles continues and likely always will.

And how do you get away from the words that surround you in your typical workday? Take it as a sign, but I’ll bet that you never really do get away from them after all.

All photos by Sally White.


One thought on “A Sign of the Times

  1. Such beautiful pictures, Sally!
    My favorite is the simple, full of “mood”, Bar sign. It is interesting how “un-wordy” a word can be. Color gradients inviting us into a perhaps surreal experience. Wonder what the bar was like….

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