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Surprise mail

February 25, 2011

Regina received strange photos in the mail. Every month, an envelope arrived at her desk with an unusual photo along with a gas bill payment (Regina worked at the local gas and electric company). These were the photos people normally throw away–family portraits where someone’s head is cut off, a huddle of friends where nearly everyone is blinking.

Trying to take a photo of yourself that's off center can be a blessing in disguise

Far from disliking these photos, Regina loved the candid glimpses into people’s lives. Sorting mail became momentarily hilarious or at least laughable. It made the day go by quicker, it made things seem less serious and it made life suddenly seem whimsical and unpredictable.

My mom told me this story growing up. It’s something she remembered from when she lived in Oklahoma City. Now I’m not sure if the story is true but I loved hearing it. I loved the idea that a complete stranger could surprise and delight  someone that they’ll never know. That a stranger could induce an unadulterated moment of glee–that seemed really remarkable.

Moving the camera too quickly produces images that look like abstract art

It’s something I’ve started to replicate. Though I don’t use film anymore, I sometimes come across old photos that are blurry or faded or where no one is looking at the camera. These photos have no significance to me. But they might to someone else. I know there is no back story, but someone else can invent one. Because these photos have no inherent value for someone else they immediately become valuable in their ability to act as a blank page. These photos can mean anything, and that sense of possibility is thrilling.

The final product (photo of a buffet included with my cable bill)

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