Bay Area photographer's work featured on US Postal Service stamps

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Bay Area photographer Gary Crabbe has received a high honor - seven of his images have been selected as part of the new "O Beautiful" series of U.S. Postal Service stamps. (KGO-TV)

Have you ever wondered where stamps come from? Turns out, many of them began as photographs. If you take one of those pictures, the U.S. Postal Service doesn't pay a lot of money. But the prestige is another matter, especially for an East Bay photographer.

Gary Crabbe of Pleasant Hill isn't exactly a household name, but that is about to change.

"It's a little surreal," Crabbe said.

The surreal state makes more sense after a visit to Crabbe's backyard studio, where he showed us a photographic archive approaching 50,000 pictures, not counting the rejects.

That's the world of a natural landscape photographer doing work that speaks a universal language.

"Something that resonates with a part of us deep inside that likes to think of big, wild, dramatic," he said. "But at the same time, inviting."

Now, he has hit a subtle-but-influential mother lode. A photograph from Death Valley has just become a bestseller for Crabbe, thanks to the United States Postal Service. This month, they released a new series based on the theme "America the Beautiful."

"I know photographers with one or two stamps," he said. "To have just one would make me happy."

So imagine his reaction when the USPS chose seven of his images out of a total 20.

"To have seven is mind-blowing!" he exclaimed.

Many of the seven photos come from this region. They include shots from Grizzly Peak, Edna Valley and Yosemite. How ironic that the man who makes a living selling large-scale prints -- in one case spanning 8 feet wide -- now has bestsellers less than 1 inch tall selling for 50 cents each. In context, however, size does not matter.

"It puts you in the history books," Crabbe said. "These are going to be collectable. To think that these will be part of the national archives?"

Better yet, he still owns the rights to those pictures.

"I am basically planning a series of collector prints to go along with the stamps, that is for sure," he said.

Now, the big question is - has he bought the stamps yet?

To which he said: "It's on my to-do list."

See Gary's work here. It's definitely worth the visit.
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