Building a snail mail relationship through (random) swapping isn’t always easy. Quite frequently, I receive from or send to a person knowing we won’t hear from each other again until years later when one of us is randomly selected as the other’s partner again. In some cases, never.
A couple of years ago I hosted a four-week, four notes photography swap to deal with this problem. The swap, called 4-4-4, invited participants to select four topics from a list of 12 and send one photo representing each of the four chosen topics to their partners every week for four weeks. The photo was just one part of the swap. Swappers also had to make the photo part of a letter, notecard, or postcard in which they explained or provided details about the photo, technique, inspiration, or the story behind the photo.
This was one of the best swaps for me. I really got to know my partners. I learned about their photography styles, their families, their careers, their personal philosophies, and more.
I decided to host the swap again. This time my partner was Diane of A Focused Journey, Midteacher on swap-bot. Diane and I communicate regularly through swaps and “random acts of mail,” but I learned a lot more about her life and her creative work.
Diane’s chosen topics were beauty, color, alone, and fragrant. Take a look:
Week 1: Beauty
Outside of “Beauty” Card by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot
“Beauty” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot
The “beauty” photo features a weeping pine that sits outside Diane’s kitchen window. She fell in love with its unusual form when she saw it in a friend’s garden. She, then, took on additional work at a local nursery to purchase the tree.
She especially loves how the raindrops form on the tips of the needles, so the theme “beauty” is appropriate for the photo.
Diane sent oversize postcards for weeks two and three.
Week 2: Color
“Color” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot
The scan doesn’t capture the colors in this postcard very well. The postcard features a photo of “clouds in color” that Diane duplicated in the background she created for the photo. She captured the photo one afternoon when the sun was “sending rays of beautiful colors as the clouds were moving across the sky.” She wrote that she must have taken 30+ shots trying to capture the light and color.
Though I’m sure this was not Diane’s intention, I like how the quote underscores the selection of this photo–it’s not perfect in the eyes of the shooter, but it is a wonderful image.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
Week 3: Alone
“Alone” by Diane, Midteacher on swap-bot
The theme isn’t obvious on this one. The yellow tulips hold a dear place in Diane’s heart. She had a pretty difficult autumn one year. The school that she loved and where she taught was closed due to budget cuts, and she was sent to a school that was challenging or “hellish,” as she describes it. Then her son, a marine, was deployed to Afghanistan. While out shopping and downcast, she found yellow tulip bulbs on clearance. It was past planting time, but she bought all three bags and planted them. The following spring, the tulips bloomed beautifully bringing her joy. Eventually, her son returned home safe and sound.
She writes in sum:
I felt alone that fall, but every spring these tulips remind me otherwise!
Week 4: Fragrant
I was almost sad when I saw the week four envelope. It meant our weekly exchange had come to an end, but when I opened the envelope, I smiled from ear to ear. Sunflowers! Such a beautiful and appropriate ending to our swap.
These brightly colored flowers–miniature carnations and sunflowers–posed brilliantly on the island in Diane’s kitchen. The fragrance filled the air and greeted her each morning and as she passed throughout the day.
Diane can’t know how much I appreciate her for sending three different versions of the photo–the original and two edits. They now have homes on my inspiration wall at home and at work!
As I mentioned many times before, I admire the way Diane works her photos into mixed media art. Although we have very different approaches to photographic art, she and I share a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and we learn a lot from each other. We often share tips and ideas, and because of my curiosity about how she crafts her photos, she recently recommended a book on photographic journaling techniques. It’s on my list for the summer.
Look forward to my “trial and error” mixed media posts in the next few weeks.
Have a happy mail day!