Friday, August 2, 2019


 what postcards from the early 19th century might look like

I started writing to strangers when I was a kid and sought pen pals whose names and addresses I found in comic books and children's magazines. What a treat to receive a handwritten card from a new friend in a different locale. Now when the mail comes and I find a hand-addressed envelope, I set it aside to savour the words and images that the card contains. The card usually comes from one of the participants in two postcard exchange groups I belong to whose names I found online. I try to make my own cards as engaging as I can.

Some examples of the mail art postcards I've received this year

Postcards have been around since the 19th century when people took a photo of themselves, marked the photo with the word "Me," and sent it on to friends. When we visited Voss in Norway last summer, we walked above a beautiful valley through farm buildings from the 1600s. We came across a stone set with a wooden plaque overelookng the valley. Carved in the wood were the words, "SelfieSpot," obviously not left over from the 1600s. We, of course, jumped at the chance and took pictures of each other instead.

In Voss, Norway

Bill taking a picture of me while I took a picture of him on the SelfieSpot

This summer the Snap+Share exhibit at San Francisco's MOMA chronicles our obsessions with mail art, postcards and selfies from various decades. One wall displays a series of postcards sent from one person to another with only the words, "I got up at ....," written on them. Another wall of glass shows both sides of mail art postcards with images glued to the substrate that suggest dreams, exotic places, and wishes.

On Kawara, "I Get Up...1975 postcard installation by On Kawara, courtesy of David Zwirner & One Million Years Foundation

In another room two large mounds of photos fill the space. The description explains that the two mounds represent the number of photos uploaded to Flickr on any given day.

This shows only one side of the room filled with Flickr photos

We have all become artists and photographers, displaying our work in various media. A friend uses the app TouchNotes that allows her to upload her photos while she is on vacation. Before she leaves, she needs to add her address list to the site. While she is traveling, the site does the rest by creating a postcard from her uploaded photos, printing her greeting, addressing the cards and mailing them for her.

postcard made with TouchNotes app

I still use postcards to express my opinions to my representatives in Congress and on the state level. For them I have chosen National Park postcards to remind them what we can achieve when we create for the future.

Though postcards are small, they can be a powerful way to connect with friends and to remember the places we have been.  When was the last time you sent a postcard?

Check out the app TouchNotes here:

Join a postcard exchange group:


  1. From Mary by email: Enjoyed your words today, but most especially enjoyed your happy walk down the dirt road picture. It might be a real challenge to do that today!

    1. Thanks, Mary! Yes, I've tried to click my heels recently -- a lot harder than when that photo was taken!

  2. Ahah! Now I get that Gus in the Air photo!!! Thanks to Mary! You so inspire me Martha!!

    1. Jan thanks for taking the time to catch up with my posts.


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