This week I’ve been thinking a lot about warning signs and particularly signs of danger and our relationship to these signs. Which signs do I notice or pay attention to? This has come about for a couple of reasons. A few days ago a good friend remarked she was surprised that I didn’t include any images from Cuba on my previous blog post on hanging washing and identity. I reflected on the pictures I’d taken on my last trip which was back in 2008 and realised that in terms of images of Cuban building facades I’d taken a lot of signs and graffiti. Here is one of the signs I took:
I like this sign for a number of reasons; the fact that it is very individual and home-made rather than an official mass-produced sign seen typically seen at building or construction sites. I like the fact that the wood and wire are the same tones as the building so the sign is a bit camouflaged and absorbed into the image, but also stands out like a rectangle within a collage. And I particularly like the repeated hand-written text of Peligro, Spanish for danger and the fact the second PELIGRO is is capitals, to reinforce the notion of danger.
A linguistic association brought to mind a memory: years ago a friend had told me that although he couldn’t speak Italian he had absorbed and never forgotten one particular phrase – E PERICOLOSO SPORGERSI – it is dangerous to lean out – from his days of travelling around Europe by train with an InterRail pass. I also thought about this phrase in connection with a grizzly, disturbing news report last week of passenger decapitation on a Gatwick Express train. The passenger had been leaning out the window.
I’ve also absorbed and never forgotten the e pericoloso sporgersi sign from my InterRail days decades ago, though I am an Italian speaker. I’ve unsuccessfully tried to learn Japanese and have a little vocabulary but cannot read. Luckily the signs in Japan tend to include universally recognisable icons as well as English.. Last autumn my husband and I got Japan Rail Passes and I saw some signs at train stations that also had an impact on me. These signs have come about because of changes in technology and the way the public engage with image-making; they represent the dangers of using selfie-sticks:
I particularly like the unisex black and white skeleton with selfie-stick and red zigzags. Both signs have the bodies at a slight angle which seems to be a recurrent motif in danger signs: The following danger signs represent the body at an even more extreme angle and emphasise the act of failing or slipping:
The following two images were taken in Ibiza. The first was taken at night – I like the painted graffiti background.
This image was taken in Rottingdean:
A danger of death sign from London; I think the reason I noticed and stopped to photograph this one is because of the black tape above like a couple of dynamic abstract paint lines and zigzag arrow pointing to the collapsed figure’s arm or heart.
The next sign was taken in Tel Aviv . Compositionally I like the all the graphic lines overhead. The text is trilingual; Hebrew, English and Arabic. Usually the climbing icon figure is still upright:
The next images feature graffiti – a smiley face has been added to the sign. It brought to mind the Stevie Smith poem Not Waving but Drowning
The exclamation mark is a common possibly universal icon signalling a hazard or warning of danger. I don’t normally stop to photograph exclamation signs but this one did attract my attention with it’s combination of stencilled eye graffiti and markings which gave it an abstract feel:
I noticed the next sign because it was so “unnoticeable” and almost illegible so you had to work at reading the text – layers of graffiti and torn notices have obscured the faded warning CUIDADO CON EL PERRO regarding the guard dog:
On occasion I’ve noticed and photographed warning signs purely because the wording struck me as a bit surreal or absurd:
This one was taken in Brighton:
And this one in Hyde Park, making one ponder the relationship between Art and Health & Safety: