As the great city of New York moves, changes, and evolves every day, the few remnants of its past go unnoticed. New York City’s “ghost signs” —advertisements painted across the facades of buildings that date back to the 19th century—are often invisible to the busy New Yorker, but defiantly conspicuous if only we turn our eyes and look upwards. These faded representations of the city’s rich economic and social history are slowly disappearing before our eyes, but not before they were captured by this photographer’s lens.
At the tender age of sixteen, Ben Passikoff roamed around Manhattan with his camera to document these fascinating signs—hand-painted messages written all over the city. This photographic collection features signs painted in the 1800s as well as in the 21st century; signs that advertise funeral homes, meat, and underwear; signs stretched across iconic buildings; and even signs that are no longer legible. Using his photographs as a looking-glass into the past, Passikoff provides insightful commentary on the economic, social, and historical significance of commerce in New York City, and its vanishing ghost signs, now preserved in this photographic record.