From Simon Roberts’ blog We English I just re-encountered the hyper-real super-color images of Britain I’ve always been curious about. They were shot in the 1960s for Butlins Resort by John Hinde and co. as a series of advertising postcards. Finally some answers revealed as well as lots of neat context and history though Roberts’ post. I was never exactly expecting that they were ‘real’ pictures (especially this first one, in the pool, which is really too perfect but still a favorite of mine) but I had always hoped they were. Guess not, but still an interesting moment in photography.
Roberts also points to an article in the Telegraph from 2002 talking about Butlins, the history and Martin Parr’s intimate relationship to this place and these pictures.
Presented as a large deluxe print, however, re-incorporating the edges that were cropped out in the postcard, a certain shoddinesss is revealed. There is rust under the paintwork, cracks in the plaster, and the chairs are well worn. Butlins wonderland begins to look more like a bus station. It comes as no surprise that none of the three photographers have any enthusiasm for this contemporary reprinting of their work, which appears in a context for which it was never intended.
John Hinde’s philosophy was that “pictures should always convey a positive, good feeling, something which makes people happy, which makes them smile, which makes them appreciate some tenderness”. Parr, by contrast, has built a hugely successful career by making hard-eyed photographs of working-class culture. Indeed, the landmark in his early work was a series of cruelly sensational pictures of the run-down seaside resort at New Brighton near Liverpool.
Parr, who worked as a photographer at Butlins resort when he was younger, said “he always relished Hinde’s postcards”. Since then he has organized an exhibition of the postcards and edited the book “Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight” of these images published by Chris Boot in 2005 (aside: another Parr book of postcards??). This quote in particular is really revealing about Parr’s interest in the original work, its seemingly tremendous early influence on him which then comes full circle when he gets his hands on the images and presents them – in an exhibition and in the book too to some extent I’m sure – in his own way. Interesting photo history.