The arrival of odd things through the post seems to be a common contextual link for this blog and “Folk Photography” by Luc Sante is no exception. This book serves as a fascinating survey of a marginalised and neglected form of early twentieth photography. The phenomena of real-photo postcards dates back to around 1903, when Kodak introduced the No 3A Folding Pocket Kodak, which allowed the public to take photographs and have them printed as individual postcards. Printed in local makeshift darkrooms, often in towns where the local newspaper was unable to reproduce half tone images, these photographs communicated the localised stories, pains, joys and tragedies of rural America. This book beautifully reproduces a selection of these images, which have been gathered together by the author, Luc Sante, who describes himself as a ‘marginal consumer’ sifting through the dusty detritus of flea markets and junk shops in search of visual treasure. Many of these images are blunt, raw and unmediated by pictorial convention, created by self taught practitioners and local entrepreneurs eager to turn a dollar. Many are author less. The postcards depict a vast range of subject matter, cataloguing the everyday to the downright bizarre. A few of the images are singularly personal, many depict local newsworthy events, all have a static, otherworldly quality, exposing a vanished world suspended in unsmiling, ritualistic solemnity. This book is a wonderful resource, constantly illuminating, informative and a must for anyone interested in non academic art.
I am deeply indebted to the publishers, Verse Chorus Press, for supporting the blog by generously sending a review copy.