Photography

I AM HERE

CONNIE KUHNS

Connie Kuhns channels the self-focused approach of social media into the vintage correspondence of "Wish You Were Here."

My grandmother used to send me postcards. They were from places I never expected to see: the Manhattan skyline, LaSalle Street in Chicago, the Moffat Tunnel in Colorado, highlighted by the emerging silver stream of the California Zephyr. Even the two-storey LeRoy Hotel-Motel with its “Modern and Plain Rooms” in Custer, South Dakota, seemed exotic when featured on a picture postcard arriving in the mail. I have them all, along with a postcard my mother received from the Selznick Studio when she wrote a fan letter to Shirley Temple. Getting a postcard in the mail was an event.

The postcards in I AM HERE were designed and mailed in 2012, in the spirit of another time. It was my own private performance art, as I addressed each card by hand and mailed a new one every day for two weeks to a small selection of friends. I used different post offices in my neighbourhood and kept track of the details. The postcards arrived unannounced and unexplained. To me, they were my simple response to the social media convention of reporting in from wherever we are, moment by moment, no matter how insignificant our actions or locations. If there is a message, it may be about remembering how to anticipate, or how to wait just long enough to ask whether something is worth telling.

To say I AM HERE could sound boastful and self-important, but for anyone who still dreams of trains and big cities, it is confirmation that the sender is not lost. However, it remains a solitary thought and a generation away from “Wish you were here,” a very important social convention in its day. With these postcards, each moment can be held. It can be put under glass or on the refrigerator. The image can even be posted on Facebook. But by the time the mail arrives, as I wrote on my final card, I will have left. Where I am right now doesn’t really matter.

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CONNIE KUHNS

Connie Kuhns has a forty-year history as an essayist, journalist, photographer and broadcaster. Her essay “Strange Women,” (Geist 95), about women in Vancouver’s early punk scene, was a finalist for a National Magazine Award;  “Last Day in Cheyenne” (Geist 84) was named a “Notable Essay of 2012” in The Best American Essay series and a finalist for a Western Magazine Award;  and other essays have been finalists in publications ranging from the LA Review to Prism International to the New York Times Modern Love column, and the Southampton Review Frank McCourt Memoir Prize.  

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I AM HERE

The self-focussed approach of social media is channelled into the vintage correspondence of "Wish You Were Here."