Last week we were thrilled to launch the “Wish You Were Here” exhibit by local photographer and educator, Bob Martin. The interactive exhibit of historic Roger Williams Park postcards evokes both the art of the past and the lives of those who loved the Park over 100 years ago. Take a trip through the lobby of the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium and at locations near the Museum, Casino, Carousel, and Boathouse to experience how the Park has changed, and stayed the same over the decades.
We talked with Bob Martin about his relationship with the Park, and the exhibit, below. We hope you love “Wish You Were Here” as much as we do!
Bob, you are a neighbor of Roger Williams Park and you have been for a while. What do you enjoy most about Roger Williams Park as a regular visitor?
What I have most enjoyed about the park are walks with my partner, Jacqui, and morning bicycle rides in search of early morning light and a magnificent blue heron.
You have created quite a personal collection of historic postcards of the Park. What inspired you to collect these?
I became interested in postcards through my first mentor in photography, David Freund, who is still an active collector and photographer and will have a book on the subject published soon.
What have you learned from collecting these postcards from Roger Williams Park’s past?
I have learned about how various aspects of the park have changed over time.
Tell us about the exhibits you recently installed at the Museum and around the Park.
The exhibits in the museum and in the park represent several years of photographing and combine my interests in picture-making and history. As a photographer, I am always hoping that my pictures can offer a different vantage point on a situation. By holding up an old postcard view of the park and photographing it in front of the space it once occupied, I take great delight in the gentle collision that occurs when the elements of time past and present merge into one image. The QR codes posted throughout the park allow for the images to be returned, in a sense, to their original locations. The QR code and the GIF format also allow a relatively new form of technology to animate the past and present views. Lastly, the more time I spent looking at my collection of postcards, other aspects became of interest: the penny postage stamps, the cancellation marks, and the messages written between family and friends. The messages serve as a reminder of the role postcards once played in connecting people to each other.
What do you hope people get out of seeing your exhibits?
One of the things that I like about photography is its potential to reveal a different perspective. It is my hope that park-goers gain an appreciation of the park’s history: that a current stroll through the park shares an activity that people have enjoyed for more than 100 years.
Thank you Bob, for your vision and creativity in creating “Wish You Were Here.” We hope everyone gets as much joy from it as we do! The exhibit will be in the Park until late-September and in the Museum through the holidays.