I am not so into analog, am not such a major purist about media, anymore. I am more wary of nostalgia than I am of new digital delivery mechanisms. If you’re used to digital photography and don’t mind laser printing your old fashioned fonts, that’s fine.
But with that, I have found myself recently investing (and it really is an investment, the way these things are priced) in letterpress typeset thank you cards. I love a good handwritten, handmade piece of mail.
This morning, I checked my office mail and found a curious letter from my mother, with her signature stickers and heart-dotted letter i. I have two consecutive lower case i’s in my last name, so sometimes the i’s are eyeballs. She draws a smile under the stems.
Today’s mail from mom was a Hallmark birthday card. She loves Hallmark cards. She writes letters and greetings to people like it is her full-time job. Hallmark should name a special line of cards after her. I inherited my enthusiasm for letter-writing from her. Have you received mail from me? I would love nothing more than to send you something.
My mom had already sent me a birthday card. Several, in fact. Why did she send this one, and to my office? Inside the card was one solitary photo. And at the risk of sounding (even more) self-absorbed—because I am its sole subject—this photo is sublime.
This photograph was taken and then developed and printed by Shin Iwasaki; one of my best friends on earth. He is a wildly talented photographer belonging to a microcosm of people who worked exclusively in print photography. We were both juniors in college when this photo was taken. I know because the thatched fence and wooden shingles on the side of the house in the background are at 1515 Brommer Street in Santa Cruz California where I lived that year—1997 or 1998.
What I see in this photograph is a mix tape and a Snoopy lunchbox in my right hand. I am wearing my favorite denim skirt, and probably the tenth pair of Chinatown mary janes I bought that year. I’m bloated on birth control pills that make me miserable which I finally stop using in a year, I’m growing out a fuschia hair dye.
The color tones of this photograph evoke so many sensations I cannot describe. I can tell it’s near the ocean but also the forest. I can hear a radio. My polyester thermostat. My full heart.
I feel somewhat for the artsy kids today who won’t encounter print photography or have friends who will take lovely pictures of you, make physical mixtapes. I am not so into real media that I eschew the pleasures of real-time media, but if you can, take a chance on it.
Post Script: This is all reminding me a lot of Hua Hsu’s upcoming memoir Stay True, or more precisely the digital mixtapes he’s shared (via secret mail club which you should totally join—it’s iconic).