45 responses to “What Does it Mean?”

  1. Mark Olwick says:

    My thought? It’s a picture of some post cards. It evokes no emotion in me whatsoever. To me, it means nothing.

    Sorry, just being honest.

    • Smogranch says:


      Totally fine. That is what I’m looking for. No sense in a reply that isn’t honest. This picture, which is a smaller version of one I shot year ago that I really like, isn’t a great picture, not at all. But, it does make me think about several things while I’m looking at it. That is what I’m wondering.

  2. Jason says:

    Does it mean you are in Maine?
    I see lots of coastal images, one of a deer?, boats, buoys, and all things nautical. If you are have a lobster roll and beer for me.

    • Smogranch says:

      I WAS In Maine, and yes, I had all the above x 10! That fact you studied the postcard images is important and interesting to me. This photo makes me think about one thing in particular, and I’m waiting to see if anyone hits on it.

  3. The first thing that came to my mind was choice. As with visiting anywhere it seems as though someone can purchase a post card to visually describe their recent trip for family and friends. Post cards can be beautiful and in todays world perhaps over looked. Since modern communications allow a person to take a photo and then attach a text message and send it virtually anywhere in the world in seconds, where does this leave post cards?

    Maybe post cards will slowly go the way of other analog old fashioned things, is not “Instant” what everyone wants? Why would someone pay for postage when they can just use their smart phone to do what a post card has done for years?

    I imagine most post cards are older images shot on film and were taken with care. The fact that you can pick up a post card and hold it at an angle, turn it over and read a little bit about the location and engage with it with a pencil or pen makes it real. Is digital just vapor ware? Is paper really needed? I say yes, it is about the experience, the human experience. That is what it means to me.

    • Smogranch says:

      Ah…..now you are talking. You are hitting on some of the things I was thinking about when I saw this photograph. I’m still thinking about one more thing, or different I should say, but your points are REALLY great, and all poignant. Thanks for playing.

  4. Aaron says:

    Beautiful pictures are not enough.
    There is no narrative associated with it for me. Either through an edit or perhaps through something more literal like a description.
    The most powerful, memorable images for me have always been in association with good writing. I always think of Gourmet Magazine (r.i.p). They add atmosphere, filling in some but not all of the blanks. Always leaving room for my imagination to fill in the rest.

    I also realize that I have rarely if ever bought a postcard. I think I’d rather have my own, less than perfect image that one on a card that although technically better, doesn’t resonate.

    Thanks for the invitation to play.

    • Smogranch says:

      I love it.
      I love postcards and try to send them all the time. They just remind me of another age. For all the reasons people don’t like them, don’t understand them, I love them. I want to use a pen. I want to have to find a post office, and most importantly, I LOVE getting things in the mail. Every time I send a postcard today I get a response for the recipient. Normally it goes, “Oh my God, I love getting things in the mail.”
      But, I still view this picture in a different way……nobody has asked about it, hit it yet…….

  5. Jen says:

    Not sure if my previous comment went though…but one more thing to add… your choice to shoot on a square negative…maybe something more traditionally reserved for portraits. in a way you are presenting your subject as portrait, one which requires more attention on the part of the viewer…it’s not just a casual snapshot?

    • Smogranch says:

      Interesting to think the square makes you think differently, and perhaps appreciate in a different way. Others I sure could care less, but we all filter differently. Thanks for playing.

    • Jen says:

      i wrote a fairly long response and can see a abbreviated version under the community page…i tried to re-post but it won’t let me. don’t know why it isn’t showing up? i included some links…would that have something to do with it?

    • Smogranch says:

      Hmm, let me check. Site has been acting strange lately.

  6. Leigh Webber says:

    I’m one of those Type-A people that likes patterns and order. So my first thought went to color and composition. I don’t care that the postcards aren’t in there neatly (I’m not that nutso), but I do like the grid and pops of blue.

    This all probably has nothing to do with the deeper meaning you are getting at!

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Leigh,

      That is totally valid, at least as much as any deeper meaning although I’m not sure deeper is how I would describe. When I saw this picture, which is pretty frickin basic, I made me think about what the components meant to us and why we do and use images like this.

  7. Jen says:

    see if this works….I think every photograph is valid, regardless if the viewer finds the subject matter interesting or not, and should be approached with an open mind. It seems that often things we find boring, stem from the fact that we don’t put in the effort to understand them. And while I am all for freedom of expression, Mark’s comment made me bristle a bit. Just wondering why such a strong, one sided reaction? In my opinion, any photograph that brings up discussion is a good one. I’m going off topic a bit, but maybe inadvertently this image brings up the ever present issue of “what is art”. Reminds me of the always heated discussions surrounding Barnett Newman’s The Voice of Fire, which hangs in the National Art Gallery down the road from me…and which many taxpayers were unhappy about…

    Anyway, when I look at this image the first thing I see (beside postcards on a rack) is a photograph of photographs. This instantly makes it interesting to me. It is more conceptual than a beautiful work of art on its own, which is part of the beauty of the medium itself. There are so many ways we can use photography, and it is constantly evolving, yet the more “traditional” ways of seeing photographs remain just as relevant today as well. To refer to another painter, this photo reminds me of Magritte’s The Treachery of Images. “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” —“These are not postcards”…

    I agree with G-photoDesign, in that we live in this age of instant everything. Yet having a tangible sliver of a place you can send back home seems more real. Recently I visited Vancouver and found some old postcards in an antique store. I used those instead of buying glossy new ones. The photography studio who shot them was no longer in existence, but their stamp remained clear under the faded image. Back to what Gphoto was saying about is paper really needed…I doubt I would have found these relics of the past if they had been in digital form…lost in the abyss of obsolescence.

    Another point I wanted to make…postcards are chosen images, by who? the tourist industry wanting to showcase how they want their city portrayed? Again, to use an example, they are usually landmarks, or stereotypical, generic scenery. Like those signs in popular destinations alerting you to a good photo op. They’re not really the “feeling” of the place. They’re not a personal experience…but then again you can use the blank back to fill that in with ink.

    There was more I wanted to say, but it slipped my mind….thanks for posting this!

    • Smogranch says:

      This is great, this discussion. I was hoping this would happen and I’m glad it is.
      To be fair to Mark I think he was just speaking from the direction of the photo itself and maybe not what it perhaps represents, and actually in my mind that is equally valid. I was thinking about in terms of what the postcard is, what it represents, how we present it and why we as humans feel the need to actually remember things with photographs. As you point out, there are many variables here. I also think it is fascinating what we put in postcards, which ones sell, and why we feel we need to have perfect, cookie cutter images to represent these places. I also think it is interesting to think about how the idea of “postcards” within the photography world is considered a slight, “ah, that guy just shot a bunch of postcard type snaps,” and yet these type of images resonate more with the public than many of the images from “experts.” A lot to think about I know. Nothing deep here, just thinking. Thank you for the effort.

  8. Brendan says:

    Pictures within pictures? The potential for something to happen, or for something to do- like a roll of film has 36 potential pictures or 36 “bits” of potential.

    • Smogranch says:

      Ah, pictures within pictures…..I love that. Obvious in the particular image, more difficult in good doc snaps. Thanks for playing.

  9. Karen says:

    The picture made me think about the postcards themselves, emphasizing how much we rely on imagery to convey experience. “Hey, I was visiting this place and the best way for me to share that experience with you is to show you a scene from there.”

    The thing is, a collection of postcards goes so far beyond what we actually (literally) see. All those pictures of boats– if I were to visit this place maybe I’d see one or two of those scenes. But in a display of postcards I have a chance to see things not only have I seen in-person, but far more. So they sort of capture reality and fantasy all at the same time. They also drive us to have a common view of a place– we see the scenes in a postcard collection and that impacts the way we view a place because it suggests that those are the important images that someone things we should remember.

    • Smogranch says:

      That is well put. I was visiting and I feel the need to show you what I saw, or what was here. One thing that has me wondering is how everyone is recording everything now. I went to the beach last weekend and all around people are recording every single thing that is happening, with full intent. I wonder why and what it’s all for? Why do we feel the need to do this and what will come of it. I don’t have any answers.

  10. Paul J says:

    From all of the postcards shown on the photograph, the one with the three boats drew me in. I first saw this blog post on an iPod Touch and even without zooming in that was the one that caught my eye. It reminds me of long sunny days which are slowly coming to an end and it’s me relaxing near the boats watching the sun come down.

    When choosing a postcard to send to someone we are somehow drawn to a particular one and its a very personal thing that the recipient often over looks as to why that specific card, out of many, was chosen to be sent.

    Photographically with the increase in digital cameras everywhere there is still too many people who ‘snap’ away without really thinking about why they are taking the photograph in the first place and only sometimes think about it afterwards, it should be the other way around…think first, then react. It should invoke the same feeling you would have in selecting a postcard.

    The art of understanding photographs and what makes it special very much interests me, especially as I see many images hanging on gallery walls and I immediately think about how I could get a photograph hung in the same room, ie. what is it about his photo that appeals instead of the one I took from a near similar position.

    By the way, thanks for raising the “What does it mean?” question in the first place. Interesting topic.


    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Paul,

      I had no idea what would happen if I put this out there. I’m glad people are responding. I just commented below about the massive attack of capture happening all around me, mostly by civilians who now have the ability to record every aspect of their lives and everyone around them. I wonder what will come of this. I think most of what is being captured will be lost, just the law of averages, but what will survive and why? What will it mean.
      When I see a rack of postcards there is always one or two that lands in my brain. Sometimes its an odd one.

  11. Someone put one post card out of place at the top right of the photo.
    I love sending post cards. A family member recently gave me some postcards I send to my grandparents 25 years ago when I was in Japan. All of them dealt with fishing. One was at a fish hospital. My grandfather loved fishing. I always stop and look at racks of postcards.

    • Smogranch says:


      I do too. I also write as many letters as I can. If my handwriting was better I would write them every week. I love sending letters and really love getting them.

  12. Karen says:

    On the issue of massive and constant capture these days, there’s Sontag’s view that people take pictures to (even if subconsciously) prove that an event happened and/or that “fun was had.”

    I wonder whether today it’s more about this weird need many people feel (I’m often guilty of this myself) to always have some sort of device in-hand.

    I also wonder how many of the movies or pictures taken with a phone or even a DSLR are ever viewed. I suspect the best hope for a lot of images is that they end up on facebook; worst is that they are taken then later deleted when more space is needed for yet more images.

    • Smogranch says:

      97% of all digital files are never printed. I think that need to record is based on having that device all the time. I’ve seen plenty of kids who can’t go more than a minute without reaching for their phone, and adults are not immune. I like that idea of proof.

  13. The beauty of a postcard is that you get to fully experience the travel destination without the pressure of taking photos. I see many people shooting relentlessly on vacations to the point where they don’t get to see the whole world uncropped by a viewfinder. They never truly get to experience their children’s recitals because the camera never left their eye. Postcards return us to a day where everyone didn’t have an instant way of recording life.

    • Smogranch says:


      That is an interesting point. I too have witnessed the same thing, and I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing for many years now. I don’t travel really. I only travel with photography plans in mind. In fact, I’m not even sure what I would do without a camera at this point.

  14. Erin Wilson says:

    I’ve loved working through this post and comments. It’s an amazing thing to get a peek into how others see and interpret.

    There were a few things that struck me about your photograph:
    -these photographs likely represent the work of a number of photographers. Though the tone may be similar, the same area can be seen in completely different ways. That always blows my mind.
    -it takes lots of different points of view to appeal to the public. It’s likely that someone in the market to buy a post card is going to find something in a collection that large.
    -for most people, holiday memories are in colour and not black and white.

    I’m really interested in the role that postcards play in connecting. Last fall I travelled (and photographed) cross-country (Canada) with a friend from Germany. We hit some of the must-see spots in the east, and she’d naturally planned to send some postcards home. Trouble was, she couldn’t find a single postcard that met with her approval. They were all deemed horribly ugly. All of them. And for her, the choice of postcard was a direct reflection on her, so it was better to send no postcards than to send an ugly one. For me, the point is about relationship and sharing. Different takes on the same issue.

    • Smogranch says:


      That is really interesting. I’ve never really set a standard for images. In fact, the worse they are the most likely I would buy them. I’m a sucker for horrible snaps. Personally, when I get links from people regarding their parties, their travels, etc, and I’m lead to an online photo gallery, I NEVER view the images. Typically, there are FAR too many images, nobody edits and the pictures show ZERO aim, direction or style. When I get a postcard I can’t NOT look at it. I’m confronted by ONE image and a message, a personal message from the particular person. They simply put have far more meaning for me.

  15. Charlene says:

    “What does it mean?” is a very interesting question. I have no idea, but will have a stab: That you’re on holiday somewhere beachy and can’t decide which one to buy? That you’re feeling some melancholy over a coastal holiday you once had? That you came upon this place in your wanderings and the bright, sunny scenes couldn’t be further from what you were feeling at the time? That you’re feeling a sense of longing as it’s in colour…? I suppose I should’ve ask first – why the square format, and why colour?

  16. Paul Gero says:

    Dan…Ironic because you’re making something unique, graphic and artistic of what were some of the most mundane, ordinary and derivative photographic products this side of the wedding industry…

    • Smogranch says:


      The only question I have on this point is the audience. Had a conversation with someone last night in regard to this. Someone was working on a project and someone asked, “Is it academic or no?” My thought was, who is the audience? Curators or the people in the photos? The public? So mundane for you and I might mean life-changing for someone who restored a lobster boat and sees genius in the snap. I don’t really know.

  17. To me, you’re informing us that if you want pretty postcard views, you can buy them ready made and often to a high standard and always very cheaply. But they do not have your input, your emotion and rarely can be duplicated because they have been taken when conditions are optimal. They are souless.

    Visit a place and record your own emotions/experience.

    • tobiah says:

      isn’t that what a postcard is. you record your experience on the back what you were able to see on the front. and you want to share that with others who weren’t able to experience that with you. it may not be exactly what you saw, it might represent the ideal rather that the actual, but who cares. it still caused you to want to share it. it could represent how awesome an experience was, but your photograph that you took just can’t express that. just my 2 cents. -tobiah

    • Smogranch says:

      Totally valid in my mind. I think these cards represent everything to some folks and nothing to others. I think for us, image makers, we want a more personal connection to the place, so we make our own images. For others, these little things offer a relief of sorts. I like both. Love buying and sending these things, but also do my own.

  18. ……… However, they do serve a useful purpose and that is to direct you to local hot spots where crowds will be gathered, events take place and the architecture and views will be the best available locally.

    • Smogranch says:


      I think we all filter based on our knowledge, taste or behavior. I think for many folks they look at postcards like these and think, “I want photos like that, but I could never make them.” So, they buy postcards. Just a thought.

  19. I think/feel five things:

    1. Grateful. Thanks, guys, for saving us the trouble of taking any of those photos. Great job.
    2. Sad. Everyone who might expect a postcard from me has now died.
    3. Puzzled. Why are postcards stuck in the 1960s, visually?
    4. Envious. How come Daniel Milnor is so sorted that he doesn’t mind leaving all those partial postcards at the edge of his frame?
    5. Curious. I wonder which are the most and least popular images?


    • Smogranch says:


      That stuck in the 60’s is an interesting point. I do see modern cards but they are mostly locals with more skill that have made deals to sell their work.

  20. Actually, a 6th thing: Is this the nearest most people will ever come to a photographic exhibition? Are we seeing here a perfectly valid communal yardstick of photographic quality?


    • Smogranch says:

      That is another good point and speaks to my idea about audience. I would imagine more people relate to post cards than gallery images.

  21. My thought….

    Those pictures already exist in the world, now go make your own.

  22. NL says:

    In general, I think it is a bad idea to take pictures of other pictures, such as outdoor advertisements.

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