Ghost Signs and Visual Dyslexia in south Birmingham

O.R. Wilson Butcher is one of the latest ghost signs to be revealed recently on Stratford Road in Sparkhill. The sign was nearly perfectly preserved hidden behind a large billboard for many years. Now that this traditional form of advertising is being replaced by online and social media advertisement, the sign of O.R. Wilson Butcher has been given a new lease of life.

...and just around the corner from the above ghost sign, on Formans Road also in Sparkhill, another ghost sign has recently been revealed. Love them or hate them, but the large-scale billboards had a positive effect on preserving many hand-painted signs from the elements. There are quite a few Twining's Tea ghost signs to be found around Birmingham these days.

Further along Stratford Road heading into town, another beautiful ghost sign can be found which tells of a business dealing in fine furs. The sign has been preserved so well as it had been painted onto a north-facing wall. 

...and yet a bit further down Stratford Road this beauty can be found. The sign is located right above Azad's Grocery Story. 

Staying in Sparkhill, just opposite the road from the Twinings ghost sign on Formans Road, this fading sign can be seen, which used to offer cash for cars.

Zam Zam is/was a textile and fabric shop located also on Stratford Road in Sparkhill. The sign's letters have seemingly fallen down and once the first 'E' will have fallen down, it will advertise a very different kind of business.

In Stirchley St. Andrews Methodist Church has become a classic example of what dyslexia looks and feels like in the mind of a dyslexic person.

And finally another ghost sign, this time in Kings Heath, which I have walked passed many times, without actually noticing. The sign which is located on the back of the building that currently houses Argos on Grange Road, tells of a former bedding business.


Reclaim Photography Festival 2017

I recently entered the following four photographs from the series Visual Dyslexia into the exciting Reclaim Photography Festival 2017

A Ghost In Town
Ghostsigns are hand-lettered signs of advertisement, which are often covered and perfectly preserved by newer signs and revealed when those newer signs are being removed. Now in a more derelict area of the city, the revealed ghost sign records a former place and business, which would have been located in the heart of the city at its time.

Come Along In
The inviting sign of a former business in Stirchley, which tells of a welcoming, now derelict place, which would have brought locals together in the past.

Paradise Lost
This image perfectly records the impact and reality of Birmingham as an ever-changing city landscape. As old buildings are being torn down and replaced by new and shiny structures, city dwellers are being moved and communities are broken up.
In this case, the strap lines of optimistic town planners create an ironic juxtaposition and contrast against the reality of city living, poverty and social degradation.

No Ball Games

Some neighbours are just no fun. We are a rule-making and at times rule-breaking society. Some rules are essential, some of them have to be obeyed by law, some are appreciated and others are not. The rules in this images are clearly dividing a neighbourhood.


Not one, but two ghostsigns appear on top of a news agent and tell a story from the past

Thanks to the help of Stirchley News and their reader Michael Humphreys I found out this week, that Lilliput was a risqué magazine in the 1930's and 40's and Housewife was a magazine for women. Both signs are located above a current shop in Stirchley, which has been a newsagent for around eight years.
A 1946 cover of Lilliput (image source)            A 1939 cover of Housewife (image source)


A ghost of a company and a political message

Recently I went to the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham to see the truly magnificent showing of Vanley Burke's photography and the way he is living, a truly amazing exhibition which has to be seen. The show with the title 'At Home with Vanley Burke', comes true to its promise as the entire contents of Vanley's home has been temporarily moved into the modern art gallery. The exhibition is a completely different experience from other, usually sterile modern art shows and a unique opportunity for any visitor to experience how the iconic photographer lives, what inspires his photography and what he is collecting. While visiting the show you can ask the gallery's assistant to play a record from Vanley's collection, relax on Vanley's sofa with his favorite literature and, if you are lucky, even witness the legend himself walk into the show, since the gallery is now his temporary home.

Vanley Burke - 'At Home with Vanley Burke', at the Ikon Gallery, September 2015

To my surprise, I found a picture in the exhibition that Vanley had taken, which is of a spot in Digbeth I myself are particular fond of. Not only do I drive past the ghost sign of F J Thornton & Co in Digbeth on my daily commute to work, but I have repeatedly photographed it myself over the years. I was even more surprised to find that Vanley had perfectly managed to record and preserve for future generations a political message in form of a graffiti, which has long been removed from the wall, hence I never knew it had been there. Ever since I am looking at the wall with a very  different set of eyes.

F J Thornton & Co Ltd. was a Digbeth-based company producing and trading from 1944 until 1976 in scales and weighing machines. In 1976, according to Black Country History, the company became a subsidiary company of Edwin Preston Ltd.. The company ceased to exist only 5 years later.

Above is an image of the typical product produced by the company a Viking Scale, which you can be bought on ebay or etsy these days. (image sources etsy.com)


The Grand Hotel in Lopud, Croatia by architect Nikola Dobrović

A special from my holidays in Croatia. Introducing the Grand Hotel:

A few days ago I went to the Island of Lopud just outside of Dubrovnik, where I came across the now sadly derelict Grand Hotel. The hotel by the architect Nikola Dobrović was first opened in 1937, the place was architecturally well ahead of its' time. I just love the way he used the concrete to cast all the type. 
It reminds me of some of the brutalist architecture we have in the UK. Here is a link if you want to find out more about the Grand Hotel here

The hotel has been derelict for many years now, when taking pictures however I realised that people seem to squat the building.

When walking around the building I stepped on what I thought was a floor made from concrete, just to realise moments later that I stood ankle deep in a mixture of liquid concrete, mud and water.

The last three pictures were taken on my way to the famous Sunj beach, located on the other side of the Island. Nikola Dobrović seems to have left his brutal, typographic traces across the island.


Two Visual Dyslexic showcases in autumn 2015

Two of my images will be on public display this fall. I am really excited to see what the audience will think of my collection.

This image is called 'A ghost in town' and I really like it since it tells so many different stories of urban and human life, without a single person on show. It also records one of my all-time favourite ghost signs. This image will be on show and for sale from the 10th September until the 3rd of October2015 as part of the Photographic Prize at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham.

This image was taken during the BrumMeetJune6 and chosen in the top ten from all images posted on Instagram that day. The photo will be on show during the pop-up exhibition More Birmingham Instagram Showcase at the Ikon Gallery from the 27th to the 29th of November 2015.


Don't you park here!

Over the years I have photographed a great variety of examples of visual dyslexia in all walks of life. I came to realise only recently that I have been subconsciously recording many signs warning the public not to park their cars in a certain location. Out of hundreds of images I have put together my personal highlights here.

I have photographed this house and former shop front many times over the past years. I am driving past it every day of the week. Only recently I have come to realise that there is a second, fading sign above the 'No Parking' sign, which tells me that this shop used to be a fashion business. Fascinating how the paint of the 'No Parking' had the impact to stop the paint from flacking. 

Apparently we recognise lettering from the top half of the letters and not the bottom, here is the proof.

How long must this warning have been up on this garage door? It is almost gone now.

Another favourite, someone obviously did not like to be told what they can and what they cannot do and splashed paint all over it in protest.

Here somebody is trying politeness.

Beautiful colours on this set of doors.

The alinement and kerning of this stencilled sign is all over the place, looks like somebody had a drink to two too many before they did it...

I photographed this a few years ago, as I was fascinated with the overpainted Entrance sign. Only much later did I realised that in fact there was another sign below.

What are 'Oors'?

Crazy how we can still make sense of this sign.

A somewhat clear massage, which clearly has not worked.

I love these concertina folding shutters, which completely distorted the message, depending on the view point you take.

An old favourite, of which only very little is left now. An earlier photo of the sign can be seen here.

Interesting warning... Vehicles could be damaged, or they might not be.

After all this negativity of not parking in place, I though I conclude this post with this sign. This sign is clearly encouraging cars to drive past it, or does it?


Tweet, tweet, twitter

In case that you rather like to follow this site on twitter or in case you think I tend to write too much for your liking, you can now follow my adventures and other related stuff, in a shortened version on twitter - @visual_dyslexia

In case you didn't believe me, here is the proof of my first tweet. From now on in I will also make the twitter world unsafe with me dyslexic gibberish. 

Celebrating a new purchase...

I finally bought myself a new, proper dslr camera, woop woop! I have been pondering long and hard about which camera I should best choose and I finally settled on a Nikon D5500. The camera has got a screen that folds out to change its angle and view point, which makes it much easier to hold the camera over had and shoot signs that are often above head level. So if you come by a person holding a camera above his head high up in the air, and you are wondering who that 'idiot' might be, well, that is properly me!

Got myself a nice zoom lens too, which means I can get much closer to my beloved signs now. To celebrate the purchase of my new camera gear I am posting pictures from my first few days with my new 'third eye'. In fact above is the very first picture taken with my new camera. I used the zoom lens to photograph from across the road, perfect!

This is one of my absolute favourite ghost signs located on Fairfield Road, Kings Heath. There are quite a few Twinings ghost signs still around in Birmingham these days, you can find more here.

Found this message on a wall in Kings Heath, although still somewhat clear, I am most sure why it is there.

This ghost sign, former shop sign was revealed recently when the new shop owners dismantled a marquess that covered it. A beautiful glimpse into the past of Kings Heath.

This image is a close up of a fence around a building side in the Jewellery Quarter which was dysmanteled shortly afterwards.

There are many blue plaques around across the UK, most of them in very good condition, this one urgently requires an updated.

This is also in the Jewellery Quarter advertising a pizza restaurant (which I do not recommend btw.).

The remaining pictures are...wait...yes you have guest right from my recent trip to Cambridge.

I hope that is clear, they do neither like motorcycles nor the letter 'O' in Cambridge.

The back of a JD Weatherspoon called The Tivoli which was on fire in March,  here is a link to a local news report .  

Another fading ghost sign, sadly almost gone

Since starting to record visual dyslexic signs nearly a decade ago now, I have become more and more fascinated with the impact the elements have on vinyl signage, some time soon I will devote a post specific to those 'newly-formed' fonts.

Sounds like a rather spiky and uncomfortable ride...

This sign has not only completely grown into a bush, it is in its' current state complete gibberish.

Only 'lower-body' people allowed to the right, black cycles only to the left please.