Postcard Art / Postcard Writing

This post is to mark publication of my book of stories inspired by old postcards

I’ve loved postcards for as long as I can remember. I’ve also collected them since I was a child. In 1974, I wrote in my diary, ‘I put some postcards in my album. I want them to be museum pieces some day.’ Well, at the age of twelve I wasn’t very realistic about the likely future interest of the world in my album of postcards from my first holiday abroad plus assorted pictures of Victorian girls and boys bought in the giftshop at Bowes Museum (near enough to home for an afternoon’s visit), but my collecting instinct was already strong.

A glimpse of one of my boxes of modern postcards…

Since then, my postcard collecting has continued, branching out in various directions. That original set of modern cards has grown, added to with cards from art shows and holidays — I’ve sorted them into groups by subject, as you can see above.

But then there’s the older postcards I’ve bought in job lots at auctions which I haven’t entirely got to grips with yet: hundreds of cards (as you can see above), mostly from the 1950s to the 1980s, of holiday destinations, largely in the UK. From these I’ve started to pick out the treasures, cards which for one reason or another, have a special appeal. I keep these in albums, which I like to rearrange every so often, just like my twelve-year-old self.

Above is a page from the album where I keep cards that I’ve used in paintings. If you follow me on Instagram (@foundandchosen), you’ll perhaps recognise the iceskater in a pink dress — I use my painting of her as my avatar. I’ve done paintings of four of the other images you can see here as well (spot them here). 

In this album, above, I keep cards that I use to make digital prints, some already realised and some waiting to be done. I’m fascinated by different postcards of the same place and I like to overlay them to get the effect of changes over time. I’ve done a post about my overlay prints recently, if you’re interested.

Above is a page taken more or less at random out of my big album of postcards which have the potential to inspire stories. I love these so much, and it’s these I’ve used in the book you can see at the top of this post: Blow-Ups: Stories from old postcards. The two postcards of ‘Brighton by night’ made me imagine a scenario where the man and woman in the two different shots have missed each other on a blind date that their friend has set them up on. Here’s the page in the book: 

They each send their friend an (imagined) postcard after the disastrous attempt at matchmaking. 

And here’s the page in the book inspired by the postcard of Broad Haven in Pembrokeshire (bottom left in the album page): 

Robert and his father — appreciating Wales

There are fifteen different stories in the book alongside an introduction about my passion for these cards (with a nod to Antonioni’s seminal 1966 film Blow-Up) and lots of lovely ‘blow-ups’ of details from old postcards . If I’ve piqued your interest, you can buy the book for £12.99 from the foundandchosen Etsy shop or from online retailers such as Waterstones.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon or you could even order it from a bookshop (ISBN 978-1-9196197-0-5). And thank you so much, if you do!

A spread from my book — for the sheer loveliness of blown-up litho postcards. You’ve got to love the dots!

As a postcard-lover, I’ve also become a collector of books about postcards and postcard art. It wasn’t until I went round the house gathering these together for this post that I realised I had quite so many. Naturally I have a copy of Tom Jackson’s Postcard From The Past (4th Estate, 2017).

Tom has made finding funny or poignant messages on the backs of old postcards his life’s work (by which I mean he excels at it) and his Twitter feed (@pastpostcard) is a constant delight. He also does a lovely podcast, Podcast From The Past, where guests talk about postcards that have special significance to them. Perhaps Tom will have me on there one day…?

My Instagram friend, Michelle Abadie (@majandmaltbydesigns and also @johnhindecollection) is a true postcard aficionado, in particular the glorious output of John Hinde Studios. Above are two of her postcard books, both great. The John Hinde Collection (extended edition, 2020) is just beautiful, with restored prints of the work of Hinde’s team of photographers. Nothing To Write Home About (Friday Books, 2007) is an earlier book (with Sue Beale) which gives the reader the enjoyable combination of Hinde postcards and the funny messages written on their backs. I’ve shown both the back and front of this book, as it cleverly uses a postcard back and front.

Then there’s:

Bizarro Postcards, edited by Jim Heimann (Taschen, 2002)

And, of course:

Martin Parr’s Postcards (Chris Boot, 2008)

I feel very in tune with Parr’s propensity to sort his postcard collection by theme:

This page is especially pleasing

I like the cover of this 2008 book from Laurence King publishers very much:

The lettering of the title (simply Post Card) is cut out and there are postcard-sized pockets behind so that, if you wish, you can change the book’s appearance by slotting in different cards. However, inside it is akin to one of those fairly commercial directories of graphic designers and I don’t feel so in tune with the very contemporary designs. Give me an impossibly blue sea and a miniature railway any day.

Incidentally, whenever I find myself desperately trying to flick through an entire box of old postcards on a market stall or at a car boot sale — with members of my family standing right behind me impatiently tapping their feet — as a short cut I look for the little strip of blue sky sticking out at the top, a sure sign that the postcard is likely to be one I’ll like:

I can see a few likely candidates above — can you?

What I really need to do, though, is to stop buying more old postcards and thoroughly sort out the ones I’ve already got — thousands by now, I suspect. But how to order them? By place? By subject matter? By colour? By their potential for various art projects? The permutations are endless. But I will leave you with the happiness that is my (growing) collection of postcards of the Piramide in Rome…

I feel sure there’s a book in here somewhere…

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