The above picture is taken from the book ‘Our True Intent Is All For Your Delight’. This book is comprised of photographs taken in the 1960s and 1970s by John Hinde and a team of photographers. The photographs were taken at Butlins holiday camps around the UK to be used as promotional materials. Despite the fact that they were only intended to be printed at the size of postcards, the production values were quite exceptional. Meticulously lit and shot on large format cameras, they were extremely high quality images. John Hinde was the photographer hired originally for the task and he found himself with so much work that he had to hire a team of 3 photographers to shoot the actual images. He retained creative control of the photographs and is reported to have been very meticulous and particular about the photographs his team took. Edmund Nägele was one of these photographers and he said the following:
“John Hinde was not a man of many words though he had a good and precise idea of what his finished postcards should look like. He would sit at the light-table, looking at and scrutinising our work in silence, umming and arring though, I soon realised, this umming and arring was equivalent to the purring of a happy cat. If the purring stopped, you started to worry. Why, he might ask, didn’t or did you do this or that… “
Whilst these photographs may look candid (and that is the intention) they were actually meticulously posed and arranged using actual holidaymakers. Each element is tightly controlled to project the most idealised view of the holiday camp possible. It’s easy to see why Hinde and his team were in such demand for their work, the photographs convey so much of the atmosphere of a perfect holiday. The over-saturated colours are almost surreal, too perfect to be true.
It may appear on the surface that these photographs are ‘just’ postcard pictures, with no great significance in terms of art or social purpose; but these photographs, staged though they may be, are a valuable document of a particular time and place, a place that existed regardless of how it’s inhabitants were choreographed for the camera. It is also a record of the way we spent our holidays in that period, before commercial flights were cheap enough to become everyday.
Martin Parr wrote the introduction to the book as well as curating an exhibition of this work in 2003. He was introduced to it in the early 1970s when he worked in a Butlins resort as a photographer. He has been a vocal supporter of these photographs ever since and was a key figure in introducing them to a wider audience. It is easy to draw comparisons between these photographs and those of Parr himself, particularly in terms of their aesthetic qualities.
If you would like to read more about this work, there is a really interesting piece of writing by Edmund Nägele about his time producing photographs for Hinde, here
Your thoughts are welcome in the comments!