Three years ago this week I was wandering the streets of Clearwater Beach with my guys after dinner. It was sunset, we’d had a nice relaxing meal (and probably a pitcher of sangria) at the original Frenchy’s, and we decided to take a walk. Since we usually ate at Frenchy’s Rockaway out on the beach, this was the first time I’d really walked around off the beach. It was the first time I really noticed all the little motels that are tucked away off the main strip of Clearwater Beach.
I was fascinated by the signs.
The names of the motels, the choice of fonts, the signs’ designs, what various places found worth noting and advertising, how the signs reflected the condition of the motel…I started collecting pictures of the signs with my phone as we walked.
And that’s how #FLMotelSigns was born.
It’s been an ongoing hashtag project of mine on Instagram, one that’s turned into a fun side project that I tend to give more attention to during spring and summer months. It’s made me more curious about my surroundings and become a unique way to document my adventures around Florida. I’m up to 80 or so motel sign posts so far, and I’m pretty sure I have enough to hit 100 in the next couple of months. I enjoy watching the collection grow, despite my son’s growing weariness when I spy a sign and insist we stop so I can snap a picture. (I figure I’ve endured HOURS and HOURS of Transformers/Power Rangers/Minecraft and now Pokémon discussions/stories/videos/trading card sessions, so he can chill the hell out when Mama takes a five minute detour to snap a quick pic for a project of hers. Just open up your binder of Pokémon cards and wait while I jump out of the car real quick.)
Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, these Instagram pics will become a book and/or sets of postcards for sale. There’s been interest expressed by several people, and it would be fun to put them into a book format. Ideas for the cover design are floating around in my brain. I need to venture up into the panhandle and down into south Florida before I create a book from them though, as most of the signs so far are from central Florida. I’m due to go to Miami in September for a wedding, so I’m hoping to spend some time snapping motel pictures then.
In the meantime, I’m playing around with postcard ideas. Here’s a recent group of signs I posted on Instagram from Treasure Island:
I’m thinking of creating sets of postcards from various beaches or areas; I’ll play around with them and see what I come up with and where the best place to offer them for sale is.
IN THE MEANTIME: Why not start a hashtag photo project of your own? It’s an easy way to tune in to your surroundings and exercise your creativity without the pressure of creating something brand new. Is there a subject that you find interesting or fun that you could start a photo collection of? Plants and flowers from your walks? Funny graffiti in public bathrooms? Dogs at the park? Maybe let your kid take a daily photo with your phone. Hell, you don’t even have to share your project on Instagram, just collect the photos on your phone until you have enough to print off for an album or create a Blurb or Shutterfly book for yourself.
BUT! If you do start a hashtag project on Instagram, leave me a comment with the #name so I can follow along!