You know the instant nostalgia-shared memory thing of Instagram? All been done 40 years earlier by John Hinde and his crack team of image-boffins
The John Hinde Archive. John Hinde and his studio were pioneers of colour photography but people of a certain age will remember him for his postcard images of Butlins Holidays camps. Hinde’s studio produced richly coloured photos of ‘the people’ at play, combining the then spectacular with ‘authentic’ experience – these were elaborately staged photos, Hinde was a 1960s/1970s precursor to Gregory Crewdson.
An exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery London featuring 8 large prints alongside accompanying postcards. It’s in the Gallery’s small print room, a space which is appropriately intimate for a set of ‘postcard’ images. The postcard was visual testimony of ‘pleasure’, of enjoyment, of the ‘exotic’ – even if it was the exotic of the country landscape for urban dweller. Above all else, the postcard with its spectacular scenery delivered the thrill and shared recognition of visual pleasure.
The great value of this small show is the edit, it enables the viewer to register Hinde’s meticulous eye and process, not least in the comparison between the original print, and the final image on each postcard.
Just look at the palette of Greens in the image above The grass in the foreground, the green gradient of the sea, and in the background the collage of mountain greens. And then the final postcard below.
Less moody, less photographic, more painterly, a change of clothes for the tourists. Indeed, like all new art forms, media, which pay homage to the ones preceding them, photography, especially the mass colour photography of the postcard erred on the side of the painterly.
The Decisive Moment for Hinde is the reconstructed, visually micro-managed memory, a souvenir of the paid holiday – a hard-won right after the war. Hinde and his team of photographers were sophisticated photo-scientists, image-thinkers, in the business of recreating memories many years before Arnold Schwarzenegger rocked up to ‘Rekall’ for his virtual summer hols.
Hinde’s post-card work was all about creating a ‘representative’ moment, a visual bridge to shared sentiment and spectacle. In the age when photography as a practice was relatively expensive, these were moments of instant nostalgia – call it Hinde-Stagram. Yes indeed, Hinde’s company did Instagram 50 years earlier. In the digital age even companies are really just nostalgic echoes of older analogue ones.
The soft, warm colours in this image by Elmar Ludwig (of the John Hinde Studio)
are transformed into a more obvious emotion – ‘Sunny’
Which Image? Which Room?
The word ‘architect’ is a much abused word these days, it can be attached to just about anything. So I won’t buck the trend, Hinde is an image-architect, he has absolute grasp of photography as an expression of ‘place’, how to populate it, design it, colour it. I would have this image of the Lido in Battersea Park London. The photo itself is so full of visual detail, of people in the foreground background and every space in between, in the age of ‘social’, it’s a reminder of the value of physically shared experience. These spaces, funded by local government, have something utopian in their design which Elmar Ludwig captures (the geometry of the space), and in their intention, enabling people to mix and chat and hang-out in public spaces. I’d stick it over my bath.
One question for the Image Maker?
Bono used to say that Rock ‘n’ Roll ws the modern equivalent of joining a circus. Well before that there was becoming a photographer, and Hinde literally did join the circus spending many years there – it’s where he met his wife. And I think where he got his sense of spectacle. I’d ask him what was his favourite thing about being in a circus.
The exhibition runs until October 6 at The Photographer’s Gallery London