Pictagram!

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Bellerose students launch globe-trotting chain mail

Four Bellerose shutterbugs have launched a postcard campaign that they hope will take their school around the world.

Certain photo fans on Earth have received mysterious postcards in recent weeks from St. Albert. The postcards invite them to email a picture and a story about themselves to Bellerose and to then forward the postcard to another photographer.

The postcards are part of the Pictagram project, the brainchild of the four Bellerose photography students pictured on the card.

Student Morgan Goodall said she got the idea for the project after she found a website on Matthew McVickar’s “Camera Mail” project, in which a photographer sent a disposable camera through the mail across America and asked those who received it to take pictures with it and send them back to him.

Goodall said she raised the idea with her photography teacher, Michael Larocque. Students Teresa McKernan, Samantha Gardner, and Lorraine Carrie soon joined in.

“Sending a whole camera might be kind of expensive,” Goodall said, so the team decided to send postcards instead.

“By the end, we’ll hopefully have a big collection of pictures from all around the world.”

The team designed about 30 numbered postcards plus a website and movie to promote the project. The postcards feature instructions, a photo of the team, and a QR code recipients can scan for a translation of the card’s message.

The cards went in the mail last September. Most of the missives have been mailed to friends or relatives that were likely to respond, said McKernan. A few are definite long shots.

“We’ve sent one to Antarctica and the White House and Google HQ,” McKernan said, as well as NASA and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The team is tracking where each card ends up on a big map with pins and string. So far, they have a postcard en route to every continent except Australia.

Mail call

The responses started trickling in earlier this month, Larocque said.

The first was Card No. 11 from a Carolin in Dreieich, Germany, who sent a photo of the 935-year-old ruins that are a fixture for her town’s festivals. Card No. 3 touched down in Red Deer, where student named Natalie took an artsy photo of snow and a coffee mug.

At least one card, No. 7, is already on its third recipient. Carrie said she initially sent this card to her grandfather, Dan, in Matlock, Man. Dan wrote back with a story on his first gig as a drummer on a live radio show in St. Boniface, and then passed the card to his friend Jim.

Jim was a toy purchaser who acquired crippling arthritis in his hands about 30 years ago, Larocque said. A salesman at the Montreal Toy Fair introduced him to needlepoint, and he found that it loosened his hands up enough for him to work.

“Over the past 35 years I have done over 60 finished works at an average of 120 hours each,” Jim told the team in an email.

“My home is now filled to the rafters with these projects, with absolutely no spare wall space to be found for new works. But, I can wiggle my fingers like a teenager!”

Jim has since forwarded the card to an associate in the U.S., Carrie said.

Carrie said she was totally shocked when the first reply came in.

“I didn’t expect to get the response that we did.”

The team agreed that they could have used emails for this project, but said the tangible nature of the postcard held more appeal.

“I think there’s something really special about getting something in the mail that’s not just a bill,” said Goodall.

Goodall didn’t expect to get any of the cards back.

The team didn’t have any set end-date for the project, saying that it would carry on until people stop forwarding the post-cards – at which point they or their successors could always send out another bunch, Larocque said.

“It’s really a project we could keep going for a long time,” he said.

View the responses to the Pictagram project and track each postcard’s location at Pictagram.ca.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.