Neon Sign | Mark Lindsay

Consumers. In a recession it's all about consumers. The consumers aren't confident. The consumers are upset. The consumers aren't buying. The consumers aren't consuming. We hear the word consumer so often that we forget its meaning. Consume means to use up, to destroy, or to absorb all the attention or energy of something or someone. How exactly did we turn into a consumer society? When did consumption become such a desirable word?

The dark side of consumption is found in the local dump. But, the used-up can be found just about anywhere. I find among the saddest of the used-up to be old signs. On one day, not that long ago, the sign was proud and new. It was a proclamation, a flirtation, a neon exclamation point. It called out to passing traffic, “Look at me!”

Design is fickle. One day's new thing becomes painfully dated in a blink of the cosmic clock. If we wait long enough, the old becomes new again. But, most used-up things never live to see their renaissance. Someone comes along and sends them to the junkyard. Consumption.

Photography is perhaps the unique art form to illuminate the nature of time, fashion, and consumption. Old photos, too, become tired objects. But, if they survive their own grim reaper they eventually show us something of the past. Most likely whatever was in the old photo is now gone. If it remains, it's probably used-up.