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I like John Hinde

Peter Pan RailwayI like's first hero is John Hinde, (1916-97) photographer and pioneer of postcard-shaped pleasure. Chances are you've never heard of him, but it's more than likely that you'll have seen some of his work. Hinde is a (mostly unsung) pioneer of colour photography; overlooked because he spent his time producing holiday postcards. His photographs are some of the best-known and most widely circulated in the world but until recently they have been given little respect. However, times are changing and his work is starting to be appreciated thanks to dedicated fans such as great British photographer Martin Parr who like Hinde, manages to make every picture tell a story.

It was Martin Parr, among others who suggested the Hindesight exhibition which took place at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in 1993. I stumbled into it while on holiday in Dublin and was knocked out by the photographs on display. I've always been a fan of holiday postcards. I love the way they present an idealised, romantic image of where you've been on holiday. John Hinde made this into an artform, with the brightest colours, the happiest faces and some of the most artificial compositions.

Butlins AyrHaving spent time in the circus, Hinde was a born entertainer and combined this with his skill as a photographic innovator to produce postcards that tried to match people's memories of where they had been rather than the stark reality. The colours (produced using the complex tri-colour carbro process) are Technicolor bright and the contents are carefully chosen. Most John Hinde postcards contain some "added value" specially imported for the photo shoot like flowers or a child in bright clothing designed to entertain the eye. It may not be realistic, but it is the essence of the way Hinde worked. In Hindesight, the book written to accompany the exhibition, one of the Studio's photographers tells how Elmar Ludwig imported a whole cactus garden for one shot of Puerto de la Cruz in the Canary Islands. By adding these details and enhancing the colours, sometimes to outrageous effect, the photographs convey a mood and a lifestyle along with each place. It is always a mood of tremendous optimism and excitement, that makes everywhere look like the most fantastic place to go. What more could you ask for in a photograph?

The introduction to Hindesight, (reproduced in part on the John Hinde Ltd. website) tells of a dedicated and tenacious man with a mission to entertain and a shrewd eye for a business opportunity. He worked with a dedicated team of photographers, schooled in the processes he developed. He is probably most famous now for his pictures of Ireland (where John Hinde Ltd. is based) and for his Butlins postcards, celebrated in Our true intent is all for your delight, a book of his photographs introduced by Martin Parr. Although John Hinde sold his studios in 1976 and retired to France and Spain, his legacy lives on and his postcards continue to be sold all over the world.

See all pictures or the slideshow >>>