This interview is a part of a new series that highlights the story of the Traveling Umbrella. Each project participant is mailed the Traveling Umbrella and asked to keep it for about a week. They use it as a photography prop before they mail it on to the next person on the waiting list. Learn more at:
Participant: Jeff Kelley
Location: Northampton, MA
Find him on Instagram: @postaljeff
Interviewed by: Rachel Fergus
"It’s funny, now that I think of it, I never actually thought about using the brella to actually shield myself from the rain,” Jeff wrote about the traveling umbrella, “now THAT would have been original”. It’s amazing how this prop, an umbrella, has become more than a simple tool to keep rain off. Instead of being a shield, the umbrella is much more for Jeff and others. “…I mainly did what any other responsible Instagram user would do, which is, to rope family members and friends into participating in my ridiculous ideas for a picture,” Jeff wrote. And everyone who has had the umbrella knows exactly what Jeff is talking about- having the ‘brella often leads to a family affair of finding unique places to pose the umbrella and snap shots.
Like many others, Jeff appreciates the brella because of what it represents: “I think its totally helped build community,” Jeff wrote. Most IG friends that have had time with the Traveling Umbrella have experienced the community growth and connection brought about by this prop. However, the ‘brella’s effects on Jeff have led to even more creativity. “It actually inspired me to start a couple of other similar projects,” Jeff wrote, “one being a traveling piece of fabric…as well an another; a group project involving a soaked film exchange”.
The brella connects people, many of whom have never met. But it also builds already strong bonds. One of Jeff’s favorite ‘brella pictures is of his daughter posing with it in an abandoned building (included in the article). “I was excited to set this shot up at the time, as I hadn’t seen anyone else post anything like it,” Jeff began, “…And of course, the fact that one of my kids is in the photo (and that she is willing to help me create the photo) makes it special to me”. Near and far, those we have never met and close family, Jeff’s story is the definition of how the Traveling Umbrella can connect people and build community, both across the country, and with your own children.