POSTCARD NARRATIVES

 

OLD BLIGHTY

FELIXSTOWE

 

FRANCE AND THE FRENCH

FRANCE, SYLVAN GLADES GALLERY ONE
FRANCE, SYLVAN GLADES GALLERY TWO
FRANCE, A COTE DE LA MER GALLERY ONE
FRANCE, A COTE DE LA MER GALLERY TWO

 

FRANCE, STREET SCENES GALLERY ONE
FRANCE, PUBLIC AND PARKS
FRANCE, PARKS AND BUILDINGS 01
FRANCE, PARKS AND BUILDINGS 02
FRANCE, PARKS AND BUILDINGS 03
COTE D'EMERAUDE (carved rocks, Chateaubriand's Tomb, beach scenes)
PARIS 1900 01
PARIS 1900 02
PARIS INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION 1937
ILES CHAUSEY (anthropomorphism)
BIARRITZ, THE SILVER COAST

 

VERSAILLES, GALLERY ONE
VERSAILLES, GALLERY TWO AN ADVENTURE)

 

FRENCH PUBLIC SCULPTURE GALLERY 01
FRENCH PUBLIC SCULPTURE GALLERY 02

 

FRANCE,TREES
FRANCE, WATER SCENES
FRANCE, VISTAS
FRANCE, CARVED ROCKS AT ROTHENEUF
BRITTANY 1913, A TOURIST'S ALBUM

 

FLANDRIN'S MURALS

 

AMERICAN NARRATIVES

AMERICAN NARRATIVES SIXTEEN GALLERIES

 

SOVIET CARDS

MOSCOW IN THE SUN ONE
MOSCOW HEROIC TWO
LENINGRAD ONE
SOVIET FOUNTAINS

LENINGRAD TWO

 

 

WORLD CITIES

HELSINKI
HELIOPOLIS
CONSTANTINOPLE
PUERTO RICO

 

THE LOW COUNTRIES

AT THE SEASIDE, BELGIUM AND HOLLAND (01)
AT THE SEASIDE, BELGIUM AND HOLLAND (02)
AT THE SEASIDE, BELGIUM AND HOLLAND (03)
THE MAJESTY OF BELGIUM GALLERY O1
THE MAJESTY OF BELGIUM GALLERY O2
THE MAJESTY OF BELGIUM GALLERY 03
THE MAJESTY OF BELGIUM GALLERY 04

 

BELGIUM, PUBLIC SCULPTURE GALLERY ONE
BELGIUM, PUBLIC SCULPTURE GALLERY TWO

 

BELGIUM, COLONIAL POWER
RUINS OF ZEEBRUGGE
BEFORE AND AFTER BOMBARDMENT,

 

FRESH PASTURES

NEW SOUTH WALES, Nature's Wonderland
CANADA, A START
CANADA,A SECOND GALLERY
THE WORLD OF THE JUNGFRAU

 

OBJECTS ON CARDS

GALLERY ONE

 

FIGURES ON CARDS

 

PEOPLE ON POSTCARDS GALLERY 01
PEOPLE ON POSTCARDS GALLERY 02
PEOPLE ON POSTCARDS GALLERY 03
PEOPLE ON POSTCARDS GALLERY 04

 

FIGURES AT THE FAIR (PARIS 1937)
ITALIAN COURTING COUPLES

 

FIGURES IN SNOW (Skiing)
FIGURES (from the Loftus Collection)

 

DECORATIVE LETTERING

GALLERY ONE
GALLERY TWO

 

SINGLES

DISCARDED CRUTCHES AT ST.JOSEPH'S
THE CASINO, MONACO
HUY, LA PLACE ST-DENIS
UNDATED STUDIO PORTRAIT C1910
MARSEILLES, JARDINS DU PHARO, FIGURE GROUP
ASHFORD GENERAL HOSPITAL WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS
SCENIC RAILWAY, CORONATION EXHIBITION LONDON 1911
EPINAL, Les Piles du Pont Levis de Chateau
OYSTESE Ingebrigt Vik Sculpture Museum

 

 

I don't think that this section needs a justification. There was never a rationale to the postcards I kept. I was attracted to de-populated town scenes (usually in the United States) where the main visual attraction was a Post Office, Library or Bank, in the colours of a Battenberg Cake. The more idealised the glazed colour surface, the better for me.

The eager pushiness of the Monument in the Park commemorating an event best left forgotten, was much treasured. Also the depiction of scenes of tourists gazing blankly at a pile of horse dung purporting to be the Plymouth Rock solved many of the problems I had with the world.

That there were probably thousands more of this particular card was no deterrant. Collectors seek the comprehensive. Not me. With Postcards I felt part of a community that scrutinised and kept things in mind in case they were needed. Go to Phil Beard's "notes on the visual arts and popular culture" to see how discriminating selections of imagery, choice of details and historical research of postcards can provide a coherent body of stunning imagery while expressing the personal.

Only when I scanned my cards into a computer (and in particular for the 27 inch screen and its Cinerama proportions) did it become clear what hidden incidents, tensions, and inert objects lurked in these commercially available images.The locations were interesting enough, the focus of tourist curiosity self-evident, but the photographic distortions, aberrant colours and inadvertent human encounters were so fascinating that I found myself returning to them on a regular basis. Art didn't seem to work that way.

The handwriting, no matter how ominous or intimate, was of little attraction to me. It was the picture alone that seized attention, not the address and identity of the recipient - the provenance and the social observance. Of particular talismanic power was that card upon which stamps had been stuck in places on the front where least damage would be done to the visual proposition. Compelling too is the text that spills over from the reverse and crawls about the white frame. To be perfect this must be accompanied by a mark indicating the location of the holiday room or park bench.

The closer the scrutiny, the more I suspected that there was one individual who was always present in the Postcard, confident his intervention would never be spotted. Sometimes he lurked in the topiary or could be seen at an upper window. I have seen him dressed as a priest, a butcher, and in a sailor suit pretending to be a child. The more the surface of printed dots gives way, the more obviously it is him.

He is perhaps a presiding official designated with the task of arranging reality for the professional photographer. It clearly was a job handed down from Father to Son, and not delegated to the distaff side of the Family. And were these boys busy!

For all I know, the dramatis personae, the staffage on the cards, may also be a constant, no matter what the year, the culture or the subject matter. Postcards are staffed by a repertory company booked many months ahead and as stable and predicatable as that used by Preston Sturges in his movies. You'll find the Ale and Quail Club deployed on every seafront walk in my selection. Hence the familiarity with which they greet each other.

"Teddy... it's you. Smart blazer, old thing."

"Well hiya Buster. You've lost weight. See you in Atlantic City..."

" At three?" -

"We're running late. Make it four."

 

If you don't know about these things, make sure you have looked at

• Tom Phillips, The Postcard Century 2000 cards and their Messages Thames & Hudson 2000

• Elizabeth Edwards, We are the People... Postcards from the collection of Tom Phillips, National Portrait Gallery London 2004

• John Jakle, Postcards of the Night, Views of American Cities, Museum of New Mexico Press, 2003

• Jeff Rosenheim, Walker Evans and the Postcard Steidl/MOMA NY, 2009

Avoid books with titles such as Postcards of Old Sheppey, Bygone Bournemouth, with drab topographical exercises in nostalgia, badly printed and not an ounce of Pep.

 

 

NOT TO BE MISSED

PHIL BEARD'S POSTCARD MEMORY PALACE