Artist’s touch, computer program create picture-perfect greeting cards

With the aid of a computer program, Seth Bond can transform a photo into a custom greeting card., VALLEY DISPATCH PHOTO/BOB WHITAKER
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BY GAYLE SIMONE, valley dispatch staff

METHUEN — For the past two years, Seth Bond has taken roughly 52,000 photographs of more than 200 scenes. Ironically, he does not consider himself a photographer but a nonclassically trained artist who creates greeting cards.

Bond’s cards are not the typical, staple greeting cards with puppies, babies or snowflakes. They are of small towns throughout New England that he photographs and then recreates in the form of greeting and post cards using the PhotoShop computer program.

His first card was a recreation of the Norman Rockwell’s Main Street Stockbridge at Christmas painting.

He was dating a girl at the time who he had recently visited the Norman Rockwell Museum with and decided to get her a print of the painting for her Christmas present. Along the way, Bond came up with another idea to go along with the print.

“I thought, I’m pretty good at PhotoShop. I bet I could recreate (the painting) photographically,” Bond said. “So I took my camera with me to Stockbridge, walked through town and took a bunch of pictures as I walked down the street.”

Bond then took the film to a one-hour photo developer and scanned the pictures into his computer.

“I then spent several hours stitching them, making this panoramic view, printed up the version of the scene and I gave it to her with the print.”

A year later, Bond said he needed a birthday card for somebody.

“I wanted to do something interesting, so I thought of that scene,” Bond said. “So I manipulated it a little bit and turned it into a birthday card, which all of my friends loved. It became my stock birthday card for my friends.”

Two years later, Bond decided to create other scenes. He started with Wakefield, Mass., and then his hometown, Rochester, Vt.

Upon completing the Rochester scene, Bond sent a copy to Herb Campbell, a hardware store owner in Rochester. Campbell loved it and wanted to know how to order it.

“I hadn’t thought about it, so I worked out the pricing and that’s how I got in the card business,” Bond said. “At this point, I have created just over 200 scenes of about 100 different New England towns. I travel around New England towns and just shoot photographs. Each scene is made up of about 30 to 40 different photographs.”

Bond has created scenes from Vermont to New York, but one of his most challenging scenes was Newburyport, Mass., because of the town’s winding roads.

“I went out there about 10 different times,” Bond explained. “I took about a 1,000 different shots. It was a fun challenge to capture the essence of the town.”

Bond said he drives around looking for quaint towns that he can create into scenes, and has received rave reviews from residents of his subject communities.

“The smaller towns really latch onto it,” Bond said. “They feel a sense of pride. They say, ‘this is our town; not just the same old farmhouse, lighthouse or covered bridge.’”

Bond spends most of his time sitting in Starbucks at the LOOP creating his masterpieces.

“I spend about 12 hours putting one of (these cards) together,” Bond said. “I love doing it; it’s a lot of fun — a lot of time, but it’s very fulfilling.”

Bond describes his cards as more of a souvenir than a staple gift-giving card.

“The typical buyer is a tourist,” Bond explained. “They see my cards in the local gift shop of the town they are in. I also put the location of the town on the back of the card, so if they want to visit the towns, they can.”

Bond also creates holiday cards, but has no intentions of creating a line of birthday cards. “I can’t see myself competing with Hallmark on that level,” Bond said with a chuckle.

Along with selling his work to giftshops, Bond’s full line of cards is available on his Web site, SethsCards.com. “All of the cards are blank on the inside,” Bond said. “But you customize your cards when you order them on line.”

Bond said the turnaround time for custom prints is about a week. He also noted that he loves when people tell him he should go to their town.

“I had this one lady who was down in Florida at the time. She had seen one of my cards. She wrote to me, ‘you’ve got to come to Bradford, Vt., because it’s a gorgeous little town. You have to do a card of our town,” Bond said. “So, I went to Bradford, Vt., and she was right. It was a gorgeous town.

“Sometimes it’s hard finding the right towns, so when people tell me about their towns or places they’ve visited, I put them on my list and go out there. That kind of advice is always great.”

Bond has gone as far away as Connecticut, but wants to travel as far south as South Carolina and as far west as Illinois within the next 25 years.

Have a story idea? E-mail Gayle Simone at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.