I decided to sort the postcards chronologically, using the postmark or handwritten date to order them. The first set was easy to order by date, and I then scanned both front and back of the postcards onto the computer. I felt that ordering them by date allowed a natural narrative to form, especially when multiple postcards were sent on the same day or during the same trip. The postcards form a diary-like record of events, which is revealed when they are organised by time period.
I then decided to also order the larger 160 piece set of postcards chronologically. Initially I sorted the postcards into piles based on decade, for example 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Then I broke these piles down into individual years, such as 1968, 1969. I finally sorted these 1 year piles into month, day and time. Through sorting the postcards, I noticed patterns emerging- the decimalisation in 1971 meant that the prices of 1960s stamps changed from old pence (D) to new pence (p). I noticed the recipient’s Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain changed addresses several times throughout their lifetimes but remained in Nottingham. I noticed the same people would sent the Chamberlain’s postcards from their holidays, and that during the summer months, more postcards were received. I could piece together relatives, through their names and the way they addressed Mrs Chamberlain (e.g. grandmother, mum, Aunty). I could see the places they have travelled and the places which they returned to over the years. I noticed the handwriting of the children, especially Sarah, change over time. In the first postcard she wrote, it is clear that she is young and just learning to write- she’s added backwards numbers to the edge of a postcard. But a couple of years later her writing is smaller and more precise. Similarly, the writing of elderly relatives becomes shakier and changes over time. These small traces of the passing of time are only evident when compared alongside each other, this is why I find the postcards so fascinating. Memories of places and people are documented, and treasured by the recipient. Some of the postmarks were unclear, and so I used other information such as the stamp, or the recipient’s address to order the postcards. There were some blank cards which I do not know the date.
I decided that I wanted to incorporate ephemera into my work, so I bought two sets of used postcards from Ebay. The first set of 40 addressed to Mr and Mrs Benbrow , has 28 postcards which have been sent, primarily from abroad, and these date back from 1928 at the earliest, almost 90 years ago! The handwritten notes and messages to loved ones are beautiful. Some of the London postcards are simply arranging meeting times/ places after train journeys. In a digital age, postcards are quickly becoming redundant, but they remind me back to my childhood.
I ordered another set of 160 postcards, and these were primarily addressed to the same couple Mr and Mrs Chamberlain, who lived in Nottingham. Some of the postcards were dated and I can see they span from the 1930s all the way to 2005. This larger collection documents the travels of friends and family of the Chamberlains over their lifetime. You can see the changes of address which they are sent to, and the changing handwriting of the people writing to the couple over the years. I found it fascinating seeing how the handwriting of Sarah, a grandchild, developed and changed over the years.
Originally I thought about printing over some of the postcards, but they feel too precious, so I might order them chronologically and display them on a wall instead. I also might project the scanned images using digital projectors to create a large-scale slideshow. I am considering using two projections, one of the front image of the postcard, and a second projection of the handwritten back of the postcard.
Whilst visiting York, I went to see this exhibition, although the subject matter was not directly related to my current practice, I considered the methods of curation and ways work was displayed. I always find the curation of exhibitions at York Art Gallery very effective, but this particular curation by the contemporary artist John Stezaker suited the exhibition perfectly.
In this exhibition the first room contains a private collection of ephemera, letters, photographs, drawings and paintings collected by friends of Paul Nash, displayed alongside his early works. This collection focuses on exploring the way Nash represented the everyday landscapes using an estranged sense of reality, influenced by the post war period. Along with this, there are some works by John Nash, the brother of Paul Nash.
The main room of the exhibition contains a collection of some of the best known works of Nash, for example Winter Sea, alongside works by other British Surrealists. As well as Paul Nash’s works (and a room of John Stezaker’s), other artwork included in the exhibition was by John Nash, Stanley Spencer, Edward Burra, William Townsend, Henry Lamb, Sydney Carline, Tristram Hillier and Cecil Collins.
The final room contains photographic collages by John Stezaker, which have been influenced by Nash. Photographs have been cropped and spliced together, layered with postcards of landscapes on top of black and white film stars, or portraits. Some of the layered images subtly connect, yet the shapes and colours of others juxtapose the original image, creating a dramatic contrast. The original purpose of the photographs and postcards are lost. Personally, I am drawn to the ephemeral nature of the materials, and the way they are now persevered under a glass display frame. I am also interested in the themes of appropriation and use of vintage photographs within Stezaker’s works. I also appreciated the choice of items and ephemeral displayed alongside the artworks as this helped to give a more personal insight into the life and works of Nash. Since I am working with personal elements such as family photos it might be interesting to consider displaying the original negatives along with my work.
I was looking through a collection of ephemera passed through my family from my father’s side. I came across this postcard depicting the Motor Transport Service Corps, outside Earl’s Terrace, London in 1917. My great great grandfather, Staff Sergeant George Elbby Smith is marked on the photograph. The postcard contains writing explaining the cause of his death from dysentery in 1918. The postcard itself was never sent, but it acts as a memoriam record.
The faded handwriting on the postcard reads:
In memoriam of Staff Stgt Smith M. T. A. S. C. London. Who died of dysentery in the Fulham Military Hospital, London on March 22th 1918 age 47. Always thinking of him love cannot die although seven months has slowly passed away. We think of him we speak of him and miss him every day Never forgotten by Sappers and Harry one of the best of brothers.
I am interested in the postcard as an ephemeral object, which has lasted 100 years! I have created a drypoint plate, tracing the folds, creases and tears of the postcard onto a plastic plate. I want to document the traces of wear and tear and preserve these in the form of a print. This postcard has formed the starting point of my genealogy research, as I am fascinated by tracing the narrative of a relative’s life, especially since I am linked genetically to them.
I have come across the autobiographical work of Louise Bourgeois but I am particularly interested in her hardbound book Album 1994. The book includes 68 black and white photographs, illustrating Louise Bourgeois’ life, with 48 reflective comments printed onto translucent half sheets of vellum, which overlap the photographs. I find the use of translucent paper, partially obscuring the photographs, making them appear faded and ghostly, particularly successful. The paper has a delicate quality to it. I have looked at this series of pages from Bourgeois’ Album because I am interested in the personal and sentimental qualities of this piece. I love the captions and the personal narrative behind her life story told through a traditional style photo album. Bourgeois seems to unpick and try to understand her past. I am interested in exploring my own family history and genealogy in my work.