Q

Jeanne Randolph photographed every phone booth in Manitoba, from Flin Flon to Emerson

Artist Jeanne Randolph managed to photograph every single phone booth in Manitoba with the help of a 'secret admirer' at the province's telecom service.

The artist captured the booths with the help of a 'secret admirer' at the province's telecom service

Jeanne Randolph, Trans-Canada West near Headingly, 2014. (Jeanne Randolph)
Listen9:36

It doesn't look like much: an abandoned phone booth on an unpaved road. But to Jeanne Randolph, that phone booth is a work of art.

"[Phone booths] are a vestige of mid-century modern architecture," the artist and cultural theorist told q's Tom Power on the line from Winnipeg. "They look like little modernist buildings."

(Submitted by Jeanne Randolph)

Over a number of years, Randolph located and photographed every single phone booth in Manitoba. Those photos are now in a (virtual) exhibition as a part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, titled Prairie Modernist Noir: The Disappearance of the Manitoba Telephone Booth.

As to how she managed to track down every phone booth in the province, Randolph joked that she had a "secret admirer in the phone company" who helped her out.

"I called up publicity and the person just says, 'Oh, I think Dan knows something about that.' So I connected with him. And it turned out, Dan — he was a very terse fellow — as I understand it, he was the person who went around to every phone booth [and] inspected them to make sure they were still standing," said Randolph.

"He had to know where every phone booth in the province was and he kindly gave me that information."

Randolph said that today we're accustomed to our possessions (particularly cell phones and cars) changing their shape and look every couple years, whereas the phone booths that were designed in 1955 remain mostly unupdated to the point of obsolescence.

According to her, it's easier to imagine functional objects as art if you forget their utilitarian purpose and "let your mind bring more things to it."

Randolph's exhibition Prairie Modernist Noir can be found online as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. See a selection of photos from the exhibition below.

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      Click the 'Listen' link near the top of this page to hear Jeanne Randolph's full conversation with Tom Power.

      — Produced by Vanessa Greco

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