This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.


Premiere Motel

Carlos Vargas


Behind the Shot

Since the official beginning of Route 66 nearly 100 years ago, the highway has drawn adventurers wanting to explore a diverse stretch of America. The beloved thoroughfare runs from Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier in California—and directly through Albuquerque, New Mexico. It has long been known for roadside signs touting retro motels and vintage diners.

A self-proclaimed “sign geek,” photographer Carlos Vargas is passionate about capturing disappearing art forms like this restored mid-century neon sign located at Premiere Motel on Route 66 in Albuquerque. The lodging opened in the early 1940s—an era when many new motels were built to attract travelers along the well-known route. Competition was strong, so motels used attractions such as memorable signs and novel architecture to compel road-trippers to stop and stay the night.

Neon signs became increasingly popular in the post-war period and are still strongly associated with Route 66 today. There’s just something sentimental about the glow of the flickering lights.

“Living in New Mexico presented me with a huge opportunity to photograph old neon signs and various facets of Americana,” Carlos says of this photo he shot in 2018. “I love the simplicity, lines and colors of the sign, and the appearance of the moon in the late afternoon.”

Carlos celebrates color in his photographs, and the soothing palette in this one conjures warm thoughts of a time in history that’s gone but not forgotten. Look closely and you’ll see the moon peeking from behind the sign, beaming good fortune and nostalgia over any room where this print hangs.