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
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 4 Bob Geldof offers to take four refugee families into his home 'immediately' as he condemns humanitarian crisis as a ‘f**king disgrace'
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Three million books were judged by their covers - this is what happened
Anne Hathaway is already being stung by Hollywood ageism, aged 32
No Escape, film review: Thriller generates plenty of excitement but soon collapses
The Lobster trailer: Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a lover or he'll be turned into an animal
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees