Finding The Past in Postcards

There is a romance in the way the ink settles onto the fabric of paper, the way the colors fade or find voice in its bold hues and tones. There is everything beautiful about a person in the way they write, a person’s penmanship speaks subtly to the character of the author - the way the A’s curve or slant aggressively down, the way the O’s bend or how their S’s linger at the end of their sentences. The choice of words one uses in their paragraphs make them a poet, the way the alphabets form sentences makes them an artist. It is true, that the written language is a form of art - and therefore, the art of the postcard is a honest expression of this, of the ways we mean to say, “Hi - I’m thinking about you. I love you. This is what I’m doing with my self, I am here in this place, in this time, thinking about you, writing to you by pen and light and paper. The moon is full tonight, and tomorrow it will begin to fold back into itself, that’s how this thing work, isn’t it? Sincerely, a friend, a lover, or a stranger looking to send well thoughts.”

 

 

Brief History : 

The art of postcarding began in the 1840’s, and gained major popularity between 1907 to 1915, also known as the Golden Age of Postcards. It was also during this time that the divided back became widely popular and the designs began taking shape into the postcards we recognize today. People began collecting postcards, as the popularity grew - preserving them in album books, purchasing and admiring the art and photography hosted onto the papered backs.

Though the popularity of postcards eventually saw a decline, the changes in technology saw to a different kind of postcard over the years - varying from white borders to a decorative edge. In the 1930s a new printing process allowed for postcards with a high rag content, which gave it the look and feel of printing on linen - thus sparked the 'Linen Period' (1930-1945). After WWII and a major halt in the production of postcards - the Union Oil Company began printing on photocrom, giving it the look and feel of photographic prints. Today most postcards are printed in photocrom and are seen as souvenirs, rather than a form of communication. However - 

 

 

When you take the time to really appreciate the history and the act of what it means to send and receive a postcard...

 

- suddenly it becomes far more than this kitschy item at the air port lobby or gift shop - it becomes a beautiful act, and perhaps that's where we're headed here -  writing in search of something more connected than any form of E-Mail or Instant Message. Today, the postcard is no longer a necessity, but a novelty. Perhaps, the rarity of the snail mail makes for the appreciation of this modern day exchange. Regardless of the note itself, or the distance in which the message traveled, the postcard is an occasion for gratitude - in noting the time and the thought behind the letter. 

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Stories of Postcards

To those of us, rummaging through bins of old postcards - finding joy in bending the edges of the paper, making out the scribbles of past lovers, friends, and families, and obsessing over the romance of it all. We find our fingers frivolously pecking away at the packs of banded postcards at the junk store - wondering whether these memos from the past are that of the deceased - surely it must be, this one says 1921 - in whose attic or basement did this discovery occur? We become greedy for their stories - trying to disregard the one’s with simple writing, and searching for paragraphs, something legible, maybe written between two lovers or strangers who have shared a common destination. For every two or three postcards you find, you keep one - you divide them up by blanks and by those with story. A sense of wonder and amusement settle down into your stiffening neck, as you continue to look down and up on the boxes of vintage imagery - you realize that there was a life before us, an untold story unravelling before our eyes - in 1914, 1950, 1986, 1943 - a story about a women and her first year in college, a well wishing letter from a family friend, a tale of a loving exchange, and a meeting between two strangers.

 

 

 

As you gather the dozen postcards into stacks, you begin to notice the quality of design - the texture of the postcards, from laminated paper with scenic imagery of varying degrees of boring and fantastical to the texture of the paper, matte card stock printed with a water colored painting of a tree, or a nostalgic pen drawing of a building you feel drawn to, but have no understanding of why or what of. The sizes vary from standard to narrow. You notice that some of these postcards are sticky, covered with relics of their time. You begin to wonder who printed it, on what machine, with what kind of paper and ink and when - and more importantly you begin to hear the stories.

 

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