Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Boring Postcards USSR

Hotel Klyasma - Vladimir

The Calvert Journal recently featured the work of Italian photographer Marco Citron who has appropriated the aesthetics of vintage postcards to showcase the idiosyncratic architectural experiments of the Soviet era.

He started this project in 2007, and spent the next three years photographing architectural landscapes in eastern Europe.  Citron acknowledges that the idea was indebted to Martin Parr’s collection of published vintage postcards from the 1950s to the early 70s.

I have also been drawn to photographs of the UK's post-war urban developments, new housing, shopping centres, motorways & service stations.  Those bright, slightly overexposed, photographs celebrating the pristine splendour of contemporary architectural developments of the 50s, 60s and 70s - conveying a sense of the short-lived period of optimism of the period, the Brave New World of the future, before urban decay, stagnation, pollution, vandalism and ageing took its toll.

Growing up in the designated New Town of Washington during the 1970s, I find that they resonate with my memories of the urban environment  - the sense of newness, unblemished white concrete, the well-manicured and sparse feel of newly planted trees, shrubs and grass verges; the long motorway journeys on concrete roads or smooth jet black asphalt, and frequent stops at futuristic looking service stations along the way.  

Sevastopol, Crimea 1970s

These photographs are not a million miles from the sort of photographs which appeared "boring" postcard sets published in the Soviet Union covering the same period and beyond. As with the UK photos, they were usually taken by professional photographers, attempting to capture their subjects to the best of their ability - there is no hint of irony, humour, or lack of interest, which we might attribute to such postcards (or their creators) nowadays.

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