All the Signs Pointed Me in One Direction

Willie Nelson Live, 2004 by Jann Alexander ©2014

Willie Nelson Live, 2004 by Jann Alexander ©2014


It was May 2004 and there were so many signs in Austin, Texas, I almost ran out of film. Ten years ago I was still shooting old-school, and my slides from my first five-day visit—to the town I now call home—have a rich resonance that I swear is lacking in today’s digital photographs.

I think now that those signs had something to say to me. They all seemed to point me in one direction: West, from Washington, DC, where I’d lived most of my life.

I’ve photographed close to 100 Austin signs since then, for my Vanishing Austin photography series (and many of them on that very first trip in 2004), but the one that convinced me to move to Austin was a temporary sign, set up in front of the Broken Spoke, for a commercial shoot. That evening, the sign wasn’t for real; but it surely could have been, sometime in the Spoke’s past.

Imagine that. You drive up to a honky tonk throwback Texas dance hall in far south Austin, where urban development had not yet occurred to anyone, and you see a sign that says “Willie Nelson Live.” Now that’s a sign. 

What’s your favorite Austin memory from times past?


Endangered Species of Austin, poster by Jann Alexander © 2009

Endangered Species of Austin poster

More about my Vanishing Austin series: While many Austin landmarks are lost, many are survivors still. Admire them all in a slideshow, HERE. Prints start at $35.

You can marvel at what’s lost and what’s survived in my Endangered Species of Austin poster, featuring 16 Austin icons, and sized at a handsomely large 24 x 36,” available for $25, HERE.


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16 replies

    • Thanks, Denis, I am easily entertained by signs, especially when they evoke nostalgic times. They get me imagining life in another place and another era. Do you still shoot any slide film? I’d like to, but it is hard to justify the cost.

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    • Thanks for your observation, Larry. Operative word, I think, is “large.” Austin has become a large city before my very eyes (in a mere decade) and having come from the very large DC metropolis, I am all too familiar with the sudden change. There are many positive things about it, especially for those who bring bucks to the table. But there are a lot of tiny pebbles that get kicked to the curbs.

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