I like playing a hand or two of poker, and enjoy the artwork printed on the decks, so I was intrigued when I learned about a project that included historic landmarks featured on playing cards. The deck is the brain child of professional photographer Paul Michael Kane. I have followed the art of Mr. Kane as he has brought his vision of historic landmarks such as the 1799 Lazaretto, Fort Mifflin and Eastern State Penitentiary to the public in traditional media, and to wanted to learn more about his inspiration for a deck of playing cards.
I first asked “What was your inspiration for the project as a whole?” Mr. Kane replied, “As I was putting together a photography show for a local gallery, I began thinking about the limitations of some shows just from the stand point of wall space. I wanted to be able to showcase a nice large grouping of my work without taking up so much space. Playing cards offer the chance to present 52 different images in a portable, practical package – pocket-sized fine art! Foto Grafis is also a throw-back to one of my first professional gigs as a fine art photographer and that’s the Konxari Cards. These were a set of 88 cards designed by the IRM Foundation as a tarot-card deck of sorts. While, like Konxari, the new Foto Grafis deck will feature my imagery, but these cards will be more traditional in that there are four suits and can be used to play the old standards like Poker or Solitaire.”
Next I asked, how did you choose images from your large body of work? He replied “It’s always hard choosing a group of images – especially in this case. I also had the challenge of converting all the images into black and white – I wanted to go monochrome with the images for Foto Grafis to lend the deck some visual continuity. I choose some of the images that best highlight what I love to shoot – textures and details. My greatest thrill as a photographer is shooting something in such a captivating way, the view is left wondering what exactly it is they are looking at.”
Lastly I inquired, what images did you chose from historic sites and why? Paul’s reply, “Historic sites are wonderful to shoot in and around . . . there’s simply a wealth of photographic opportunity at every turn. Foto Grafis features many of my favorite locations including Eastern State Penitentiary, Fort Mifflin and the 1799 Lazaretto. There’s a shot of Fort Mifflin that I’ve always loved, but it’s off the beaten trail . . . you have to explore around the fort to find it and it’s this casemate overrun by foliage. I used this for my Two of Hearts. Just a magical sort of shot. The Four of Clubs is a winch from the 1799 Lazaretto – this was used to pull up sea planes out of the water when the location served as base. I love the patterns and textures in this shot. The Four of Diamonds is a lamp from one of the many cells in Eastern State Penitentiary. This image also served as the cover to my very first book, Captured: The Ruins of Eastern State Penitentiary. Some of the other historic sites featured in Foto Grafis are the Steam Town Train Graveyard (Scranton, PA), The Spring Valley Christian Church (Sussex County, NJ) and the Hollywood Cemetery (Richmond, VA).”
You can learn about the Foto Grafis deck by clicking here. As a bonus Mr. Kane has provided a sneak peek of one of the cards mentioned in this article.