Postcards Home – iPhone images of Henry Jacobson

July 22nd, 2013Stephen Mayes
Henry JacobsonAfterword by Stephen Mayes

In the last Century the postcard represented the message “Wish you were here” and spoke about distance and the impossibility of connection; in the 21st Century the Smartphone photograph says, “I am with you” and speaks about sharing in a way that makes geography almost irrelevant.  The connection is intimate and immediate, often exchanged as part of a conversation that flows as easily between continents as between rooms.  This puts the Smartphone camera in a very different role from the traditional film camera that served to create historical records, and transforms the Smartphone camera into an expressive instrument in a way that even a single-function digital camera cannot emulate.

Son of Jeff Jacobson, a master of photography as emotional embodiment, Henry Jacobson is a chip off the old block, a pixilated splinter who like his father is not describing the world as much as feeling it.  Using his iPhone as a tool for image capture and release, Henry is sharing sensations through the ether in a sort of Apple-enabled telepathy.  He has found the perfect tool for the job.  In a few short years the Smartphone has established itself as a tool for talking, documenting, sorting and sharing, and has insinuated its way into the structure of our social process.  Our phones are seamlessly bonded with our most intimate behaviors with a live connection from our inner selves to the furthest towers of the Smartphone Empire.  We rely on the phone to hold our secrets and to broadcast our experiences; it’s a tool for information and affirmation, for data, dating and positioning ourselves socially and emotionally in the world.  Henry has exploited all these attributes, maybe intuitively at first but later knowingly to create this collection.

These [eighty-three] postcards describe the author as someone who is physically nomadic yet emotionally centered.  Home is the pivot around which Henry Jacobson peregrinates, the unifying point to which all roads lead.  The miscellany of haphazard moments is captured by a photographer with a coherent vision, perfectly tuned for his waiting audience and sent like digital homing pigeons to his home.

These scattered observations are now gathered and bound into a book, which, as an object, represents something more than a collection of random images.  It’s an emotional record of a traveler who has embraced the disruption of adventure and whose ultimate destination is the security of an ordered life.  The book collates the author’s scattered experiences into a neatly bound statement, managed and contained within the strict edges of the printed page, rationalized with captions and permanently fixed. From its origins in the disorientation of changing relationships, family illness and travel recorded in ephemeral mobile files, this is the story of a journey from the uncertainty of life’s vicissitudes to the security of life stabilized in enduring ink.  Henry Jacobson has captured his emotional butterflies and pinned and labeled them on these pages, and like any collection the process of taxonomy describes the collector as much as the individual subjects contained therein.  Friendship and loneliness, excitement and fear, beauty and despair are mapped as an index of his passage.

Although these postcards are snatched from reality and now printed on these pages, these images are not documents of memory in the traditional way of photography.  The images were made to share, to create a connection, not to describe.  The messages are less about where the author is and more about his state of mind, and in describing the locations the captions do little more than inform the reader that the author was away from home.  You wouldn’t necessarily recognize Sarajevo from the image and neither is this the intent.  “This is how I feel” becomes an invitation to share the author’s experience in a deeper way than joining him to witness a sunset on the Arizona border.

All of this takes on a strange hue on the printed page.  The connection that was once instantaneous is now historical, the images are no longer casual but studied and the intimacy has been opened for public scrutiny.  “Send” has been replaced by “print”, and in the process comes another form of affirmation for the author and the reader.  The printed page creates a bridge from a strange new form of communication that we haven’t yet begun to understand, back to the familiar world of photography as we used to know it.  Here we have images that have been edited and sequenced, captioned and color corrected, curated no less, to create a reassuring hymn to the image in the familiar confines of a book.  Here the images are collated for scrutiny where once they were thrown to the cellular wind.

And yet something about its origin stirs in the work; the breeze still rattles a distant digital door, the door through which Henry Jacobson ventured into the world and through which he dropped his postcards.  And as with conventional photography, it’s up to us the readers to complete the story by applying our imagination to open the connection to the photographer’s experience and his process.
Afterword from “Postcards Home” by Henry Jacobson, Daylight Books, 2013