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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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Rachel Boillot

SPE Member since 2013
Member Chapter: South Central

2015 Caucus Application Portfolio

In 2011, the U.S. Postal Service announced 3,653 rural post offices would close. A disproportionate number of the condemned are located in the South. Several thousand locations have since been added to this list of erasure as the Postal Service struggles to cement its foothold in an increasingly digitized world. The fate of the rural post office remains unclear.

The post office serves as town center in rural communities. Often acting as a town’s sole address, this location embodies the numerical identity of place. Without its presence in the landscape, a ZIP code is lost. Yet residents remain anchored in place. In spite of post office departure or a vanished code, the home stands. Attachment to land lingers, rooted deeper than digits.

I was initially intrigued by the dilemma of the Postal Service because of the parallel to my own field. Like the letter, the analog photograph seems threatened at present. Digitization has rendered aspects of my own practice obsolete—even entirely extinct. As remains of the analog world coexist with the emergent digital technology, this moment of change begs consideration.

Upon reflection, I realized the similarity between photographs and letters. From the moment the envelope is sealed, or the shutter clicked, both objects bring messages from the past. As the object arrives, it brings this past into our presence, whispering across distance. As each takes flight, the sender relinquishes all control. Their very message relies upon the grasping interpretations of a recipient. Both are full of gaps, filled with mystery and the struggle to communicate across time and space.

28531 The Postmistress's Daughter, Harker's Island, NC

75152 Sherrill, AR

71327 Cottonport, LA

38669 Postmistress Ida, Sherard MS

28520 Cedar's Island, NC

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