The Handwriting on the Wall Says, ‘GiGi Young Originals’

Advertising murals painted by hand on blank brick side walls in the 1800s and 1900s were supposed to have disappeared by now. Color slides were supposed to have disappeared by now. Books were supposed to have disappeared by now.

For that matter, Frank H. Jump was supposed to have disappeared by now. He learned he had H.I.V. in 1986, when he was 26 years old and AIDS was a death sentence.

They all survived longer than expected. That happy confluence has yielded “Fading Ads of New York City,” a new 224-page book from the History Press. It showcases Mr. Jump’s loving record of hand-painted “ghost signs” that lasted long enough to go from eyesore to historical asset. A book signing is scheduled Thursday at the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side.

Now 51, teaching technology to elementary school students, running the Fading Ad Blog, married (to Vincenzo Aiosa) and living in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Mr. Jump once felt as if time itself were accelerating. In the early years of living with H.I.V., he wrote, “The sense of urgency I felt every day drove me to document New York’s fading advertisements, and capture the marks left by artists and artisans, most long since dead, who spent their lives painting huge commercial murals over the last 150 years.”

Underscoring the metaphorical nature of the signs, Mr. Jump has organized the book in chapters that “tell the story of the human body,” beginning with “Snake Oils, Elixirs, Tonics, Cure-Alls and Laxatives.” (Syrup of figs was not a dessert topping.) Throughout the book, Mr. Jump alternates between the gas-lit, horse-drawn era of the ghost signs and his own experience, which includes permanent hearing loss and tinnitus from Cisplatin, a drug used in the chemotherapy regimen he underwent after developing rectal cancer.

Since the late ’90s, when Mr. Jump took most of the pictures in the book, there has been a growing popular interest in ghost signs; so much so that some have been restored. Mr. Jump doesn’t really approve:

Personally, I feel these ads should be left alone to fade into imperceptibility, which is part of their natural life cycle. Although I understand the motivation behind recreating these images to remind us of their former glory, for me, the fading quality of these images is a beautiful process to behold. Although I do not want to stand in the way of progress when newer signs cover these relics, I prefer to see them untouched. They’ve survived this long; they deserve to be left undisturbed.

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