It's not everyday that you find a table set up atop of the steps of Berkeley's iconic Main Post Office. But it's not everyday that a hometown photographer has his or her work chosen to grace a US postage stamp.
For two hours Tuesday morning, October 16, airborne artist Barrie Rokeach regaled postal customers with tales of his high-flying passion while treating hundreds of eyes to a splendid collection of aerial photos snapped, collected, and bound into a series of three stunning coffee-table books.
October is National Stamp Collecting Month and the USPS decided to celebrate the occasion by issuing a special 15-stamp collection of "Earthscapes"—images of urban, agricultural, and natural landscapes as viewed from Cessnas and low-orbit satellites.
Rokeach's contribution to the 15 selected images is a photo that captures the flaring colors of the Bay Area's salt evaporation ponds.
Berkeley Postmaster Ray Davis was on hand, joining Rokeach alongside an easel displaying an enlargement of the winning photo. "We're excited to have Barrie Rokeach here to share his story on how he took this inspiring photo," Davis beamed.
"I almost always fly alone," Rokeach explained, "piloting the airplane as I explore the geography below. But now I'll have the USPS as my co-pilot on my next flight over the salt ponds." With Postmaster Davis smiling nearby, Rokeach added, "It's a privilege to be associated with such a prestigious institution, dating back to 1775, a government service I use every day."
The Planet asked whether Rokeach had known Baron Wolman, another local photographer who not only chronicled the Sixties rock scene (Classic Rock & Other Rollers) but also climbed into the clouds to capture colors on the Earth's canvas (California From the Air: The Golden Coast). While Rokeach was a fan of Wolman's pioneering aerial landscapes, he confessed, with some regret, that the two had never met.
One of Rokeach's books carries a cover photo that shows the shadow of his plane as it passes over a low cloudbank encircled by a rainbow-like halo. "That's known as the 'pilot's glory,'" Rokeach explained. It only occurs on rare occasions when sunlight, shadow, and fog meet in perfect alignment. In the course of his years patrolling the skies for amazing images, Rokeach has managed to capture about a half-dozen "glories."
If you don't want to wait for your next trip to the PO, you can see the entire set of Earthscape images online at facebook.com/USPSStamps (where you can also cast a vote for your favorite image). And for the latest news on all things philatelic, see: Beyond the Perf.
And Now a Word from Your Postal Service
With the USPS under sustained attack from political extremists who wish to destroy all vestiges of "socialism" from the American landscape (Privatize Social Security! Education! Medicare!), we cannot think of a more fitting way to end this report than by quoting the boilerplate than accompanied the press release celebrating Rokeach and his winning image:
The United States Postal Service
A self-supporting government enterprise, the US Postal Service is the only delivery service that reaches every address in the nation, 151 million residences, businesses and Post Office Boxes. The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.
With 32,000 retail locations and the most frequently visited website in the federal government, usps.com, the Postal Service has annual revenue of $66 billion and delivers nearly 40 percent of the world’s mail. If it were a private sector company, the US Postal Service would rank 35th in the 2011 Fortune 500.
In 2011, the US Postal Service was ranked number one in overall service performance, out of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world, Oxford Strategic Consulting. Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazines ranked the Postal Service as a leader in workforce diversity.
The Postal Service has been named the Most Trusted Government Agency for six years and the sixth Most Trusted Business in the nation by the Ponemon Institute.
Here's to the USPS and to Berkeley's glorious Main PO Building: Long may they deliver!