01/11/2012 02:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

iPhone Experiment: Postcards


As part of my ongoing iPhone experiments, I've been making images with postcards included in the scene. I've been exploring the similarities and differences between the types of images found on postcards and other types of photographs.

Good postcards do certain things very well: they provide a survey of a location; they highlight important features of an area; they identify iconic details of an area; they present information with strong graphic appeal. The uses of and expectations for postcards also limit their content. Remaining largely celebratory in tone, postcards present a narrow range of emotions. Remaining generic in nature, they infrequently present material of or in an individual or personal nature or impose strong interpretations on a subject. They stick to the facts - and rarely go further.

Initially, in an effort to encourage making more personal and deeply felt images, I swore off making postcard images and discouraged my students from making them too. Later, I changed my thinking on this. Making postcard images is excellent practice and can provide useful comparisons and contrasts with other types of images.

Photographing postcards in scenes adds new dimensions to this line of inquiry. Depending on the choice of images included, they can do many things.

They can be used to represent a subject more completely.
They can be used to represent different states of a subject.
They can be used to comment on a subject.
They can be used to create a visual contradiction to the other thing photographed.
They can be used to create ambiguity.

There are many ways to include postcards; hold them in the scene, place them into the scene, composite them into the scene, etc. There are a number of compositional locations, scales, and angles to choose from. Each choice offers its own expressive possibilities. What seems, at first, to be a simple exercise, unfolds multiple dimensions and offers many opportunities, if given further consideration.

How could photographing postcards in your images clarify and expand photographic possibilities for you?

(Later, in this session, I started incorporating the bag the postcards were sold in and later maps of the local area. Using different modes of representation opened up new possibilities.)

These images were made in Iceland, South Africa, and Maine during my recent photographic workshops.These images were made in Capetown, South Africa during my recent South Africa Photo Safari (sponsored by NIK). Apps used were PhotoForge and Snapseed.