New Zealand Mailboxes

Ioana Marinca – 19 January 2020

AllFormat’s James asked Ioana a few questions about her latest project with Duck Sale Press: New Zealand Mailboxes.

Mailbox without a house.
Mailbox without a house.

JM: What drew your attention to mail boxes in New Zealand?

IM: I was on a driving holiday, I’d just re-started shooting film and had the Nikon FM2 on the passenger seat. This was my second trip to New Zealand and i wanted to shoot a series that was typical of NZ but I’m not great with landscapes. I was on the South Island in a small town called Marahau, walking back towards the car after staring at the gorgeous beach during lunch, and noticed the mailboxes - something I hadn’t seen outside US films. I think I used a roll just on the mailboxes of Marahau, which isn’t a big place at all, and then started looking out for more mailboxes.

On the drive back towards Motueka I pulled over to photograph a mailbox and a schoolboy on his skateboard stopped to tell me a story. The house used to be behind us, on the hill, but a sudden landslide brought it down, killing a woman inside. He pointed out the overgrown driveway I hadn’t even noticed. That’s when I thought I’ll keep going with the series; each mailbox has its own story and character.

JM: Did you go to NZ specifically to photograph?

IM: No, I was there for a friend’s wedding on the North Island. She’s Irish/Swedish, went on a trip around the world and stopped in New Zealand where she met her husband. I can see why she stayed, it’s a stunning country.

JM: How long were you there for?

IM: As it’s such a long way from London, I stayed for two weeks both times I visited.

Roadside mailbox
Roadside mailbox
You can just about make out Marahau in the distance
You can just about make out Marahau in the distance

JM: Did you draw on any influences for this mini project?

IM: To be honest, none I was aware of. I had never tried a series like this before, where you take pictures from the same angle, of similar subjects, using the same framing. Many years ago, while on a short course at Central St Martins I remember being shown a series of colourful London doors, and another on English gas holders, and thought they were both interesting. So maybe that’s where the influence came. Although unfortunately I cannot remember the photographers’ names.

JM: Why did you decide to release this as a set of prints as opposed to a book or zine?

IM: Good question. I always had a thing for postcards; remember when my university friends travelled around the world for a year I asked them to pick up a postcard in each country they visited. I had already accepted a job in London, so was seeing the world through their Facebook posts. I also collect postcards from exhibitions and use them as bookmarks. I have quite a decent set of postcards now, from Corbusier to Alec Soth. So the mailbox / postcard link was already there, I just hadn’t seen it. When Mikael and Kit brought out their postcard sets, my penny finally dropped.

JM: So these prints are hand processed, silver gelatin darkroom prints - do you usually print at 6x4 and if not, how was it compared to your normal paper size?

I’ve never printed this many 6x4 prints. I’m more comfortable with 8x10in, and more recently made some 9.5x12in prints for a special order. There may have been a few events of banging my head against the enlarger when using the grain focuser. It all adds to the learning process I suppose.

Full set includes 13 hand printed silver gelatin postcards in a presentation box
Full set includes 13 hand printed silver gelatin postcards in a presentation box

JM: 13 prints per box, that’s a lot of work! How many boxes are you making?

I know… I’ve limited this to strictly 25 postcard boxes. It was a lot of work, but once I figured out a print I have found it quite therapeutic making the others. The rhythm of expose, dev, stop, fix, repeat while listening to a good album like Floating Points’ Crush or Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black makes for a great darkroom day.

JM: Any plans to go back?

To New Zealand? Absolutely, who would like to sponsor me?

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