Imagine stumbling upon a timeworn box of postcards. Maybe you are exploring a flea market, a museum archive, or even a dusty attic. A sense of voyeurism compels you to look closer and to read the one-sided correspondence on the cards. Perhaps you wonder about the writer, the addressee, and the images themselves. And maybe, just maybe, you find yourself time-traveling as you experience the life witnessed in these intimate missives.
This is the premise behind Dear B.J.: Postcards from the Pandemic. This series is a creative non-fiction interpretation of life in Appalachia during the COVID-19 pandemic, as imagined through intimate postcard-sized images and one side of written correspondence. Each card features a black-and-white photograph with a backside written to a mysterious B.J. and signed by “ME.” Through these vagaries, King invites the viewer into a shared world. Perhaps you wonder who B.J. is, or maybe you know. Perhaps you relate to the “ME,” who signed the cards. And as you think about it all, perhaps you overlay King's visual narrative over your own.
King began photographing her neighborhood during daily walks in March 2020, when social isolation became the normal way of life. These images are purposefully reminiscent of the photography prevalent during the 1918 pandemic, specifically Pictorialism. This turn-of-the-20th-century art movement employed photographic manipulation to heighten grain and increase shadows to enhance an image’s emotive and atmospheric qualities. Such images read like poetry to King and are what she envisioned when working with these photographs.
Much like the end products of Pictorialism and early tourism memorabilia, King chose to print her artwork using a photo-mechanical process. She finished these as photopolymer gravure prints, a modern incarnation of the historic photogravure practice. Photopolymer gravures involve transferring an image to a light-sensitive printing plate, which is then developed, hardened, inked and paper is pressed onto the plate to create the end photograph.