Pentagram Papers Reads Signs of the Times

Signs, signs, everywhere signs, including in the new issue of Pentagram Papers, the thirty-ninth in the firm’s series of privately published “examples of curious, entertaining, stimulating, provocative, and occasionally controversial points of view.” SIGNS, presciently proposed by Pentagram partner DJ Stout back in the good ‘ol days (i.e., spring 2008), focuses on the plight of the homeless. Photographer Michael O’Brien used a large format camera to capture searing portraits of homeless people in Austin, Texas, and these are interspersed with Randal Ford‘s exquisite shots of signs—most of them hand-lettered on corrugated cardboard—collected by genre-hopping singer and rocker Joe Ely. “I bought my first homeless sign in San Francisco in the mid-’70’s,” notes Ely, who was himself homeless, in the issue’s foreword. “An impulse urged me to offer five dollars for the sign. The guy looked at me with surprise. He wondered if I was on drugs. He was asking for spare change but was offered a buy-out. He jumped at the offer and scurried off to find materials to make a new sign.” It read “GOD IS GOOD, SO IS PEOPLE.” Check out the online version of SIGNS here, with links to charities around the world that are dedicated to helping the homeless.