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Loose Plates: Trade & Pacific Northwest Postcards

On Wednesday we began a small series on photobooks that aren't exactly books -- unbound collections of images that can take the form of small portfolios, decks of cards, or postcards. In the last post we featured Loteria Fotografica Mexicana, fotoTarco and Law & Order Gets Me Through the Night, today bring you Trade by Chad States and Pacific Northwest Postcards by Billy Abrahamson.

Trade is a small envelope of images from Chad States. The presentation makes it feel like an invitation, a special envelope with embossed gold lettering and details, giving its contents weight and preciousness. When opened, a line of gold text reads "Would you like to share your pics with me?", the inside pocket holding 25 photographs of men. Using his own image to trade, States acquired these photographs using smart phone cruising applications that connect men with other men seeking physical interaction. While the images are sexual in tone, none are explicit -- they are like home-made pin-ups. Looking through the images reminds me of how infrequently we see men in sexually beckoning postures, and I was struck by the similarities of the poses, particularly the prevalence of the arm bent behind the head -- a whopping 21 of these images feature some variation on this pose. There are a number of similarities between the images, but most striking to me was the vulnerability they show. While the act of hooking-up is sexual, the process of seeking a hook-up is emotional as one presents oneself for possible rejection; there is an emotional openness to these images that makes what could be potentially smutty material rather sweet. Viewing them as physical images, reproduced here in small snap-shot size with white borders, likely increases this sense of intimacy. It's certainly a different viewing experience than on a smart phone screen -- the images, and thus the men in them, feel real in a way that could never be achieved in glowing pixels. It's so seldom that we see images like this in physical form. They are exchanged over the internet countless times everyday, but presented here as objects, the result is something different. States encourages further changing the context of these photographs, suggesting putting them on your fridge or in your wallet. This is the first in an on-going series.

from Trade

Pacific Northwest Postcards 
Contained within a box with a beautiful signed image on the front, Bobby Abrahamson's Pacific Northwest Postcards are part of his series of handmade books. 44 postcards are collected in 5 plastic sleeves; each postcard is its own work of art, an archival pigment print, hand-glued, trimmed, signed and editioned by Abrahamson. On the back of each card one finds the traditional postcard design, complete with title and the occasional description -- and each is also signed and numbered. They are a collection of images from Abrahamson's five years of traveling around the Pacific Northwest, and the photographs themselves range from beautiful portraits to spectacular landscapes to the occasional scene of strangeness. The images have a softness and intimacy to them, and Abrahamson captures the feel of the hazy cool dampness of the Pacific Northwest. A few images stand out in my mind for the apparent connection between the two subjects, Abrahamson going completely unnoticed and catching them locked in private moment. The beautiful production of this box set contrasts poignantly with the transient nature of a postcard, something cheap and disposable, yet is something that is often kept, a momento from a past journey. They are like a memory, a cherished item, but one that will also fade. Abrahamson says that the water-resistant ink and durable paper is ready to survive our postal system, but one could be forgiven for wanting to keep the images tucked safely inside their box. Still -- I could imagine it would be a great project to send these one by one to an individual over the course of a year, adding to Abrahmson's own story by creating one of your own.

from Pacific Northwest Postcards
Purchase a copy of Trade
Purchase a copy of Pacific Northwest Postcards