I am Mail – Joshua de Hoog

In my last post, I presented some of the Year 12 art students’ outstanding work in the Geelong VCE art exhibition. And in this post I thought it would be interesting to explore one work in particular from that exhibition – a self portrait by Joshua de Hoog titled I Am Mail which won him the Emerging Artist Award.

The work was de Hoog’s final assessment piece in Unit 4 Studio Arts and explores the altruistic notion of ‘identity without bias’. The photographic digital collage portrays the face of a young man which is constructed from thousands of small photos of letterboxes.

Joshua de Hoog I am Mail
Joshua de Hoog, I am Mail.
Joshua de Hoog I am Mail detail
I am Mail, detail of the eye.

“Letterboxes are something that everybody has, whether millionaire or pauper, and usually there isn’t much distinction between each letterbox besides it’s number or location,” Joshua explains. “I thought this was interesting as houses can easily show one’s wealth. This was the basis of using letterboxes to create my self portrait, I am Mail. I wanted to use hundreds of letterboxes to show my identity. In essence, I was focusing on how someone could take multiple personas and how one is so easily changed and created by their environment, or by those residing with them.”

De Hoog photographed hundreds of letterboxes which he sorted and graded. He also selected a self portrait which forms the foundation of the work. He then called upon his brother’s computer skills to help him complete the next stage.

“My brother is a programmer and coded a program which would make my idea reality,” de Hoog says. “The program worked out which photos should be placed where, in order to create the final image which I had previously taken. After I had the data showing me where I needed to put the images, I just had to refer to the program when making the tangible, physical version.”

I am Mail mosiac
I am Mail mosiac of letterboxes. (Image courtesy of the artist.)
I am Mail letterbox 2
I am Mail letterbox
Some of the letterboxes in de Hoog’s artwork. (Images courtesy of the artist.)

From start to finish, including planning and photographing, the artwork took about 200 hours to complete and includes 1000 images of letterboxes with over 7000 images in total. The effort has paid off for the Covenant College student. His large self portrait was a popular exhibit with gallery visitors and featured on the front page of a local newspaper.

“I’ve been really blessed with the response,” de Hoog says. “Receiving mention in the paper was out of the blue and I’m incredibly thankful for that. I have received lots of positive and encouraging feedback from those urging me to continue pursuing my art, which I think is something I really need.”

De Hoog is now waiting for his VCE results. He says he would like to learn more about photography while on the job rather than through formal study. He has secured a job working as a photographer for the next six months and is ready to embark on a creative career. If his VCE piece is any indication, he has a bright future ahead of him.

You can see more of de Hoog’s work on his blog or on Tumblr.

Joshua de Hoog
Joshua de Hoog, the original self portrait. (Image courtesy of the artist.)
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