@NeonNewYorkCity: The Instagram Account That’s Obsessed with Neon Signs
The buzzing sound of neon signs is omnipresent on New York City streets, enticing passersby to get their fortunes told or nails done. Their fixed presence on the fronts of bodegas and dry cleaners can often make us overlook them, but artist Fernando Lions doesn’t believe that to be necessarily true; he is fascinated and appreciative towards the amount of craftsmanship it takes to make a neon sign and through Instagram, is showing users that they should pay more attention the next time they walk by one.
Fernando’s interest in neon signs began when he was still in college at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he took courses in the creation process of neon signs.
“The skill level required to actually bend a sign and the fact that all these signs are made by hand,” Lions says, “that’s the really beauty of it for me… The realization that it’s not something that you can really dabble in, it’s a true trade in the sense that it would take at least probably five to 10 years to become decent at the basics.”
Currently, Fernando is a tattoo artist over at Flyrite Tattoo, in Williamsburg. Although he’s taken up the needle and ink, he hasn’t lost his passion for everything neon. He’s been photographing neon signs for a decade, on film, digital, moving image—even dedicated a website to them.
But Lions took to Instagram and launched NeonNewYorkCity a year ago with a friend. Since the account’s inception, 874 unique photos of neon signs throughout New York City have gone up, garnering 24K followers. The account is brimming with unique signs, from pizzerias to shoe repair shops, all of them exuding a classic nocturnal New York vibe.
Lions says he “cannot not see” neon signs while he’s trekking around New York, describing them as “looking into a flame.” He’s interested in the more unique pieces, the one-offs, and different interpretations of classical signage rather than the signs that promote brands. Although NeonNYC is Fernando’s project, that hasn’t stopped him from encouraging people to submit photos of neon they come across.
“I found other people who had small collections and then they pooled together with us,” Lions says added. “It really keeps the ball rolling because I think people like to feel like they are a part of something bigger.”