Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles 1925-1965 (Angel City Press)
Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles, 1925-1965 is a unique, and indeed, spectacular collection of vintage photos that showcases the glowing neon heritage of the City of Angels. L.A. has long been recognized as the most vibrant city in the U.S., with part of its radiance coming from the signs lining its streets during the Golden Age of neon from 1925 to 1965. Photographer and historian Tom Zimmerman shows images depicting, in both color and black-and-white, what Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and countless other writers have tried to put into words.
More than 200 stunning images fill its pages, mostly in the era’s predominant black-and-white photography — photos that attest to the amazing communicative power of neon, the light that was revered for its dramatic color. An historic black-and-white view of Broadway, with thousands of neon tubes and flourescent bulbs beaming, captured by photographer J. Howard Mott, instantly expresses why L.A. gained the reputation as a city where everything is new, everything is exciting, and everything is for show. The image of ’Wich Stand that adorns the cover of Spectacular Illumination juxtaposes vivid neon lights with the other classic symbols of the city, a palm tree and a drive-in eatery. And without doubt the neon steals the show. Photographers such as Mott, John Swope, and Will Connell and their work are featured in the pages of Spectacular Illumination, a book meticulously designed and edited by neon historian and graphic designer J. Eric Lynxwiler.
Spectacular Illumination tells a story of a city that has glowed, now glows, and, thanks to institutions such as Southern California’s Museum of Neon Art that preserve the art form, will glow forever.
Tom Zimmerman is a native of Los Angeles and shares a birthday with the city. His prose has been published in Southern California Quarterly, California History, and Los Angeles Times Magazine. His photography has appeared in many magazines and newspapers, as well as in several books on Los Angeles history and architecture. His photos have been exhibited across the country and are in several permanent collections including the Library of Congress, California State Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library. Three books of his photographs have been published: A Day in the Season of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wednesday at the Pier, and Downtown in Detail. A catalog of his photographic series Neon Noir was published by the Museum of Neon Art, where it was first exhibited. He has also written three historical books. Light and Illusion: The Hollywood Portraits of Ray Jones; Paradise Promoted: The Selling of Los Angeles 1870–1930, and El Camino Real, Highway 101 and the Route of the Daylight.
J. Eric Lynxwiler grew up in Southern California and earned his degree in urban anthropology at UCLA. Popular host of the Museum of Neon Art’s renowned Neon Cruise, he also serves on the museum’s board of directors and has saved dozens of neon signs. Lynxwiler is a graphic designer and co-authored the celebrated book Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles as well as Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm.