"It may not be fun, but it is even better than that: it is humanizing."
June 28, 2011 1:50 PM   Subscribe

CameraMail. Honolulu based conceptual artist Matthew McVickar sent a Kodak FunSaver taped to a piece of cardboard through the mail with instructions for the postal workers to take pictures as it travelled from his hometown on Cape Cod. These are the results. (via reddit)
posted by modernserf (27 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
That's an interesting idea but I suspect (and the pictures seem to show) that not that many people really handle your mail aside from a couple of sorters and the delivery guy. For most of it's journey your package is probably stuffed in a bin and people aren't handling it.
posted by ghharr at 2:01 PM on June 28, 2011

It's as if I knew a boring guy that worked at the post office.
posted by nanojath at 2:05 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe we can tape a disposable camera to a pig's brain.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:06 PM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I love projects like this, but I think ghharr is right -- it looks like very few postal workers actually responded to the prompt. It's a shame really.
posted by Think_Long at 2:06 PM on June 28, 2011

Surely a double? This was all over the place aeons ago.
posted by fire&wings at 2:07 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe they're shy.
posted by subbes at 2:07 PM on June 28, 2011

Surely a double? This was all over the place aeons ago.

Apparently this is 1)really old and 2)has been done before but it just got picked up on reddit the other day. I couldn't find a previous discussion on it.
posted by modernserf at 2:13 PM on June 28, 2011

posted by modernserf at 2:14 PM on June 28, 2011

Turns out the next Gregory Crewdson is not employed by the postal service.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:17 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

With a massively bureaucratic organization like the USPS, I can't imagine management would be too keen on an employee snapping pictures of the facilities or messing with individual mail items. Assinine, I know, but that would explain a lot.
posted by crapmatic at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2011

Once is cool, but if I worked at the post office, I would ignore the instructions too. I'm sure there's enough gimmicky mail that it's not that interesting.

It's also fun to see what the postal workers wear. I naturally assumed everyone wore the uniform. ^_^

posted by mrgrimm at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2011

Snapshots of "sheer chaos" are always illuminating...
posted by obscurator at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2011

Terrorist! No, really, I love stuff like this.
posted by Splunge at 2:29 PM on June 28, 2011

I wonder how many times he had to do this before getting a roll of film that wasn't composed entirely of pictures of some dude's peen.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:36 PM on June 28, 2011

So, not really a double, but not really new, either.
posted by Curious Artificer at 2:40 PM on June 28, 2011

pictures of some dude's peen.

I thought "What, like a ball peen hammer?" then giggled for too long.
posted by eriko at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2011

So, pretty much a failure then?
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:01 PM on June 28, 2011

Another way to approach this would be to rig a digital camera with a large SD card to take a fairly low resolution photo every minute through a discrete opening or one way mirrored plastic panel. Sure you'd get lots of blank photos of the inside of bins and trucks, but any photos that did turn out might be interesting. A more sophisticated version of this might include motion or light activation, a mirror system to get views out of more than one panel, or even video and sound.
posted by fairmettle at 3:18 PM on June 28, 2011

Neat idea, I'm surprised in this day and age he got any pictures at all instead of, say, a visit from the FBI.

I'd like to do this with other opaque behind-the-scenes systems I interact with. Maybe I'll start by taping a camera to a bowling ball – WHAT HAPPENS BACK THERE ANYWAY??
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 4:49 PM on June 28, 2011

Hi everybody, and thanks for the comments! I did this project back in 2006 and it's been linked all over the place in the last week or so.

A handful of Redditors were interested in reviving the project, so I sent two new ones out on Monday. I'll let you know how those come out. My attempt at sending one to Australia failed; the clerk I spoke with said that only boxes and envelopes may be sent abroad.

The PR manager for the Hawaii branch of the USPS responded to an email I sent talking about the project with interest, saying he’d share the story with his employees.

And indeed, I got this idea from Kyle Van Horn, a very nice guy.
posted by matthewmcvickar at 5:54 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

(And KVH got the idea from P22.)
posted by matthewmcvickar at 6:11 PM on June 28, 2011

a couple of years ago i was in the habit of sending cans of beer through the mail. no return label, just proper postage and an address pasted right on the can of strohs. never lost one.
posted by lester at 7:59 PM on June 28, 2011

I see white people.
posted by Ardiril at 8:05 PM on June 28, 2011

posted by nathancaswell at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2011

FYI, the majority of your pictures (2-6, actually) are being taken inside the USPS's largest mail facility in the world in Secaucus, NJ. I spent a portion of my life there consulting with a Transportation Management System roll-out and we used to have to make rounds in the warehouse to spot check how the system was working at different points both inside and outside the building. I recognize each of those shots from inside that warehouse. Its a fricking huge building (those are all tractor trailers surrounding it in the parking lots).
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:45 AM on June 29, 2011

I bet if it went through Canada right now you'd get some interesting pictures.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:27 AM on June 29, 2011

posted by headshotlondon at 6:19 PM on July 9, 2011

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