Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Frank Warren wants to post your secrets

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 1:00 PM

The founder of Post Secret, Frank Warren, who visited UNC Charlotte last night, believes everyone should share their secrets, saying, "Each one of us has a secret that could break your heart [or] create more compassion, empathy and peace."

What's not a secret is how successful Post Secret became after starting as "almost a prank." In 2004, he handed out self-addressed postcards to strangers, implored them to send in a secret, then featured those secrets in an art exhibition. What happened next, though, was a surprise.

"The project hijacked my life," he said. Post cards started arriving from everywhere — even cards people made themselves. So, he decided to post them on his blog. Today his blog is visited by an average of 700,000 people every Sunday — over 225 million since its inception — and he has published four books, with a fifth on the way.

The site is updated every Sunday with 20, or more, postcards chosen from the roughly 1,200 Warren receives each week. (Yes, he keeps them all.) Though he likes the spiritual symbolism behind Sunday, he didn't choose that day intentionally, saying, "It just sort of started that way."

He tries to envision each week's post as a composition. "I'm always trying to think of different techniques to play one card off of another, or I think of it visually like a film editor would. I think of these contrasting images or visual themes and in terms of visual story telling.

"I always try to touch on all the notes of our human emotions every Sunday," says Warren who hopes to take you on an emotional journey, to "drop you off at a different place than where you started."

Each postcard offers a peek into the inner world of a complete stranger and, Warren believes, is a reflection of the courageous and authentic spirit of the participants in his ongoing art project.

He loves that people consider Post Secret art.

He doesn't try to set goals for the project because, he says, art is difficult to define or limit. Categorizing the project as art allows it to continue to grow and find its own way. "What you see on the Web site every Sunday is this extraordinary artwork created by people who don't see themselves as artists. I think that challenges us to redefine who we see as artists and who we think can make art — and even the definition of what art is."

While the project isn't just about art, Warren doesn't want it to turn into a therapy session, either. He tries to allow all of the secrets, and their authors, to speak for themselves. He says the project has taught him about the kindness of strangers, that we don't need to fear the unknown and has challenged him to evolve into a person who can handle tons of strangers' secrets every week after he "accidentally created something he wasn't prepared for at all."

One more fact that isn't a secret is Warren's support of Reese Brooks' Suicide Help Line (1-800-Suicide). Brooks started the help line after his wife, Kristen, committed suicide. Below this post you'll find a YouTube video about their connection.

While in the Queen City, Warren dined at the Penguin and caught up with his friend Cassie, a local who long-time Post Secret followers will recognize. Her picture used to grace the site with her story of how 1-800-Suicide saved her life.

See who was there: Post Secret pictures are posted on QC Afterdark.

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