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Carlos Vargas


Behind the Shot

Standing in a vacant lot along Route 66, photographer Carlos Vargas spotted an old neon sign with the word “EAT.” Was it an advertisement for a long-gone diner in the middle of nowhere? Carlos was feeling nostalgic—and a little hungry—when he captured this shot in San Jon, New Mexico.

This tiny village has been around since the early 1900s. It was once an important stop on Route 66—home to numerous businesses, cafés and motels and the hub of cowboy nightlife. Today the streets of San Jon (pronounced “san hone”) are quiet—lined with empty buildings hearkening back to an era when the town was a commercial center … before the nearby interstate came along. Fewer than 200 people live there now.

“It was unexpected to find this in the sparsely populated town, with basically a gas station and a few homes,” Carlos shares about the vintage icon that was in relatively good condition.

Carlos travels the world photographing neon signs, mid-century modern architecture and classic cars. He’s especially fond of the vibrant colors of places such as the Caribbean, South Beach and Palm Springs. In this shot, he used minor color manipulation on the background to place focus on the sign. Drawing on that tropical palette he admires, he tweaked the original color of the letters from red to teal.

“I love making people smile when they look at my artwork,” Carlos says. Hang this print in your kitchen or dining area, and you’re sure to see smiles on your guests’ faces.