Obituaries: John Hinde
Tuesday 03 February 1998
John Hinde was one of the pioneers of colour photography in England and a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society before he was 30 years old. He also founded a picture postcard empire which, when he sold it in 1972, could boast 50 million sales world-wide. These two achievements involved him, if not in a double life, then in a double aesthetic: the one a new and sensitive naturalism in printing and reproducing colour, the other a surreal intensification of colour - "that extra oomph" which, he said, made postcards attractive.
He was born into a Quaker (later Christian Scientist) family, a great- grandson of James Clark who, with his brother Cyrus, founded Clark's Shoes. As a child, he contracted an illness which left him partially disabled, but he was fascinated by photography and already experimenting with colour photographs while he was at school.
After being apprenticed to the family firm, and articled to a Bristol architect, J. Ralph Edwards, Hinde went to study colour photographic printing at the Reimann School in London with Frank Newens, a leader in colour printing in England at that time. In 1939, he set up his own photographic studio in London, learnt more about colour photography and its reproduction in Germany, and in 1941, began to work for Adprint, a firm of "publisher's producers" who were Jewish refugees, mostly from Austria. Before the Second World War, beautifully illustrated books had been produced in Austria, whereas in England colour reproduction was in its infancy.
While Hinde was working for Adprint, he photographed for "Britain in Pictures", a series published by William Collins, and another called "The Garden in Colour" by T.C. Mansfield. In Roses in Colour and Cultivation (1943), Mansfield described Hinde's problems and patience photographing fractious and intractable roses under studio lights, when "buds would open; petals would fall; stamens would wither". It was his infinitely patient attention to detail, to the importance of getting the photograph exactly right, as well as his mastery of photographic technique, which were the hallmarks of Hinde's work throughout his career. Mansfield also emphasised that they had not in any way exaggerated or intensified colours, something which was to be the very opposite of Hinde's later aesthetic in postcards to appeal to a mass audience.
In the 1940s, Hinde wanted to make perfect colour photographs. It was a laborious process: there were no laboratories, and it took a day and a half to make a print with the three-colour carbro process. But the production of the colour photograph was only the start: its reproduction was equally important. He persuaded Adprint to allow him to supervise the making of the printing blocks and to be present with the printer, when he set up his machines, feeling that printers and blockmakers had no idea how to handle colour photographs, and that colour reproductions were, all too often, like a piece of music badly played.
Citizens in War and After (1945), Exmoor Village (1947) and British Circus Life (1948) show the sensitivity he could bring to colour reproduction. Even The Small Canteen (1947), in which he photographed a pink-and-white- striped shape rising from a pastel necklace of stewed apples, dried apricots and prunes, is a little gem.
From 1949, John Hinde's life took another turn: having jointly written and photographed British Circus Life (1948), he worked promoting Chipperfield's and Bertram Mills' circuses, where he met his wife, Antonia, known as Jutta, a trapeze artist, and briefly had his own travelling show.
In 1957, changing direction yet again, he sold his first six views of Ireland at Shannon airport, printing them at the outset with a modified Rotaprint office duplicating machine. So began John Hinde Ltd, a postcard empire, which established his name from County Galway to Blackpool, from Butlin's Filey to Bognor Regis, and from London to the Canaries.
Among photographers, the postcards are fashionably re-nowned as "constructed" photo-graphs: their planted foreground flowers, inserted, dramatic sunsets or Mediterranean skies, emboldened colours, which could turn Torquay into a sun-soaked riviera or Ballinskelligs Bay into a bright turquoise pond, floating beyond a fuchsia hedge, offer holiday happiness with the colour "turned up".
In 1994, the Irish Museum of Modern Art toured an exhibition of Hinde's work, "Hindesight", to the Royal Photographic Society in Bath. But his earlier work, even though displayed in these hallowed halls, has been forever eclipsed by the 50 million postcards, and it is probably as an ancestral voice to the work of Martin Parr, whose photographs are in a sense an extended ironic commentary on the vivid, holiday genre, that Hinde's style will be remembered.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...
£50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...
£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...
£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...