In my project, Penny Publishing, I juxtapose compelling American photo postcards drawn from my collection to create sequences addressing such broad themes as Western expansion, gender expression or civic pride. I shape these groupings of past lives into narratives which can come alive in the present, echoing the surprise and pleasure of receiving a mailed photograph and its handwritten message in 1910.
In the early 20th century, real photo postcards were produced in the billions by photographers nationwide- but they are unmentioned in histories of photography. Photo postcards can be seen as an early source and model for the modernist photographic categories of straight and documentary. Yet, such attention as they have received has largely been by collectors seeking cards illustrating local history or ones within a wide range of topical categories.
Cheap and easy to make as a snapshot, photo postcards were different in that they were made by both amateurs and professionals. But whether or not trained, all photographers used the same photographic materials, which put their cards on equal footing. Since photographers lived among and made cards for the people pictured in them their cards become an authentic and affective view of early twentieth century America. Such a vision is available in no other form, one unified by the card’s uniform size, authorship and ambition.
Not yet published, Penny Publishing is 9 by12 inches, 205 pages in 14 parts, consisting of 370 sequenced photo postcards and expository text, including observations from magazines and photographers of the time. For inquiries, click here
The gallery below shows full page diptychs from the book.