In 1956 John Hinde opened his colour photographic studio in Dublin where he produced a series of distinctive, stylised, vibrant colour postcards that saw him become one of the most successful postcard publishers in the world. I love Hinde’s work and I loved the exhibition of his Dublin images currently on show at the Little Museum. But, aware of my bias and the inevitable influence of nostalgia (I grew up in the 1970s when his cards were sold from every rack in every shop in every town in Ireland), I wanted a fresh perspective of his photographs – from a young person. So I’m very grateful to 17-year-old Dublin student Max Hendrickson, Ireland’s Young Filmmaker of the Year 2023, for visiting the exhibition and sharing his thoughts with me.
What did you think of the exhibition?
It was really interesting, I didn’t know anything about Hinde before now. The postcards look very appealing, and full of happy people in the sun. I’d describe them as tourist vignettes of Dublin. They make Ireland appear like a sun drenched country. I think the photos being recoloured afterwards makes them look more like paintings rather than just candid photos. There is an example in the exhibition where it shows a photo of O’Connell Bridge before and after the colours were boosted and the swans were added onto it. It makes the cards look more like illustrated views of the city rather than just capturing a moment.
I really like the ones of Howth and Dún Laoghaire, they have a real summer holiday feel about them: families picnicking, views of the sea, etc. These scenes are more obviously staged than the busy city centre ones. It was strange to see the traffic on the Grafton Street card. The shop signs are the things that stand out, very expressive, I like the wording going down the building. It’s very obvious that the signs are custom made for the store, you can see the wrought iron for the letters, nowadays it’s usually just a corporate logo, the signs feel more antiquated but in a good way. I liked noticing signs for shops that are no longer there, like the Attic, Irish Linen, the Creation Arcade, and the big sandwich board advertising haircuts. I didn’t know Brown Thomas was previously on the other side of the street.
How would you describe the dress of the people in the photos?
At the Dublin Horse Show, for example, they are all very formal, suits, hats and stuff. One of the things that stood out to me was the children who were all wearing dresses, suits and proper shoes.
Does Dublin look much different now?
There is a lot less change than I had expected – it’s mostly just the cars, the people and the advertising that has changed. For most photos, the exhibition shows a recent version for comparison beside the original, and you can clearly see that the likes of Stephens Green, Trinity College and the Georgian streets like Harcourt Street look exactly the same today. The adverts on the big buildings and buses were almost all for cigarettes, tobacco and drink, with slogans like “Smoke Players Please”. I think the photographs present a different perspective on Dublin than what it was actually like, because they are all so sunny and glossy and the pictures that were picked to portray Dublin were obviously going to be the best views.
The Hindesight exhibition runs until September at the Little Museum of Dublin.
Access to the exhibition comes with the admission price to the museum, which includes a place on one of our famous guided tours. More here.
Words: Brian McMahon, Brand New Retro