How’s this for serendipity: While visiting a vintage shop in San Jose, I stumbled across this postcard.
To the average viewer, it’s unremarkable. The card is a reproduction of a photograph of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Photographer Mike Roberts photographed the bridge multiple times in order to capture this shot. He published the photo in September 1959, five days before I was born.
My family moved to the US in November 1966, and a year later my father painted this oil on canvas. Dad died in 1969.
Stumbling across the postcard literally stopped me in my tracks. My heart did that strange flutter as I tried to make sense of the photo. I realized at that moment that a small piece of unknown history grazed my fingertips. The postcard photo had been my father’s muse. I never knew.
Returning home with my friend Kelly, we jumped online and looked up Roberts and his work. From there I discovered this book
Mike Roberts was working on a memoir when he died in 1989. According to his son, Bob:
…yellow Kodak boxes snoozed in my basement for twenty years. For reasons financial, literary, and personal it took twenty years to pull together the pieces of Wish You Were Here. The words and photos were rummaged from his early musings, classic transparencies, and drafts. The rest of the story springs from our family, his friends, media accounts, and those yellow boxes. Enjoy! – Bob Roberts, March 2015
Here’s one more bit of serendipity. While thumbing through my husband’s family photos, I came across this snapshot. Check out the art on the wall!
I’ve loved reading about Mike Roberts’ life and work. I appreciate his incredible artistry and his love of the humble postcard. Most of all, I’ll never tire of those serendipitous moments in time, when a daughter stumbles upon an old postcard, bringing forth a snapshot in time.
I wish you were here.