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Neon Blue

Shanghai: urban blue

If an extraterrestrial took a photo from space of every surface on the planet earth, and started tweaking the colour setting on the image in ET-Photoshop-4 it would soon realise that humans increasingly had a penchant for neon blue. Shanghai’s neon-lit expressways (photo above) are an extreme, but the glare can increasingly be found around the world.

In Europe it is often associated with urban public bathrooms – where the blue makes it difficult for junkies to find a decent vein. In Asian countries blue neon was traditionally associated with bug zappers – that can be found hanging anywhere from public spaces, restaurants to homes – and its presence is usually accompanied by a zzzt as the moth/mosquito/minizilla lured by the light hits the electrified grill, but over time it is shifting to the undercarriage of mopeds, motorbikes and boy racer cars. If you head over to Cairo, lighting the interior of the vehicle with blue neon has become the mod-du-jour for taxi drivers wishing to stand out from the crowd – from the pavement it can look like a ghostly carriage as the driver and passengers float by at night. And to a lesser extent I’ve seen it in South Korea and China used to amplify the psychology of sterlisation in restaurant sterilisation cabinets.

Yves Klein may have been onto something.

What other examples of neon blue can be found in the urban landscape?

When it comes to cities China is the champion of neon, and Golmud, 14 hours out of Lhasa by train is the neon capital of China – it is literally dripping from the trees.

Bootnote: its difficult to photograph a neon-saturated image, and whilst colour-adjusted, this image is as close to the original as you can get.