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The recent announcement of the closure of the postcard printer J Salmon, the country’s oldest, is a reminder that the golden age of the postcard is past. Blame social media, everyone said, and everyone (for once) would be right. Also blame shorter holidays, higher postage costs (in part due to falling volumes) and, of course, the whole damn internet in general. Always blame the internet, it makes for good, easy copy.
What this frankly bizarre collection does bring to our attention, though, is our grandparents’ appetite for the weird. There are five volumes in this release and they are devoted to Size, Scrub, Meat, Elders and Wreck. To elaborate: that’s big and little people, people doing their washing (often, but not exclusively, in primitive conditions), raw food, old people and disasters – ships, carts, conveyances of all kinds that have hit something or had a wheel come off. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some of the images have the publisher’s name on the front and are clearly part of a series.
So, I think we’ve established that our forebears were weird, really weird. They not only went out with heavy plate cameras that required a lot of setting up and quite long exposures and recorded these things, but they printed them as postcards for which there was a sustainable market. The books helpfully include some of the backs – they’ve been written, addressed and stamped. People sent them, for goodness sake. .
And that, gentle reader, brings us right back to the present day and the internet. Please tell me you haven’t at some point found and shared something not unlike this. You see, we’re not so different from our grandparents at all. All we’ve lost is the art of sticking on a stamp.
The more you look at this collection, the more it makes sense. John Kasmin, who has assembled a collection of some forty-five thousand postcards isn’t some modern-day freak. These are fascinating documents of social history. Yes, some of them, especially in the Size volume, are a freak show, but we haven’t really lost our appetite for that, we just have access to it in the privacy of our own homes, and sometimes even on the news channels.
Click the images to view on Amazon