The Abandoned Motel Signs of ‘Lost America’

A night photographer since the late ’80s, Troy Paiva’s ongoing Lost America series encompasses light painted time-exposure pictures that run the gamut from lurid to whimsical. Exploring abandoned locations, junkyards, and other hidden gems, Paiva achieves in-camera what many emulate with Photoshop — but his images are all lit by the light of the moon and the help of a few theatrical gels, flashlights, and strobes.

With a focus on cities out West, Paiva’s atmospheric series of one private collector’s decaying motel signs recalls the retro days of hot sheets and hotter nights in the desert. The artist describes how he came across the treasure trove of signs in 2008 on his Flickr page. ” … I was rolling thru [Twentynine Palms, California] just making random left turns when I stumbled upon a sloping, overgrown lot overlooking town that was chock-a-block with old steel signs, artistically laid out for all the world to see.” That’s what helps to set Paiva’s photos apart from other night photographers — there’s a keen sense of excitement and discovery in each image. Click through to check into Paiva’s motels of Lost America.

Image credit: Troy Paiva