Portfolio: John Kasmin has collected postcards of beggars from around the world
Sunday 15 September 2013
"Beggars made good subjects for cards," explains the Bond Street gallerist John Kasmin of the reason these motley sorts adorn myriad postcards he has collected from around the world. "Exaggerated characters or heartstring-pullers, they knew how to pose, how to present the face, the posture of neediness, dereliction, despair – it was their livelihood, this ability."
Kasmin, whose gallery was at the centre of the 1960s art scene and has represented artists from David Hockney to Anthony Caro ever since, believes that these down-and-outs proved so popular on postcards – "sent by the hundreds of millions worldwide, bearing messages between friends and families" – partly because they imply a certain "schadenfreude… We (sender and receiver) celebrate our superiority, poor though we may be."
There is also, however, a technical reason for the prevalence of the panhandler: willing to sit for the long exposures made with plate cameras, they made perfect models; and it is clear from the examples here that there is a dignity in their poses – nowhere more so than in the case of "Marmalade" Emma and Teddy Grimes (bottom far right).
The duo were Colchester's most famous mendicants in the early 20th century, scrounging for all they had – yet, grandly dressed, they have the air of an aristocratic couple on their uppers, their eyes burrowing into the viewer, almost challenging us to give them the respect they feel they deserve.
'Want: Kasmin's Postcards' by John Kasmin is published on 24 September by Royal Academy Publications, and distributed by Thames & Hudson, priced £9.99
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia