The Tourist Perspective

Before photography landscapes for mass market were available as etchings. Postcards were invented in the late 19th Century – objectifying places into commodities that could be consumed and collected for a reasonable price. People often collected postcards of places they could never travel to. By the 1870s Americans could buy photographic prints of faraway places in their local shop or mail order (Snyder in Mitchell, 2002 p179 q Alexander 2013 p89). Stereoscopic cards also became available. In order to create the 3D illusion these reinforced traditional views of separation of landscape focal planes into foreground, middle ground and background.

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More recently, with the development of mass tourism since the 1950s, postcards were mass produced as souvenirs of places people visited and to send home ‘Wish You Were Here’. The main emphasis is on enjoyment and selling particular places as destinations that yet more tourists will want to come. They include very cheaply produced and printed cards, sometimes with landscape as the backdrop to humorous pictures of people enjoying – or making fools of – themselves. Some are also ‘boring’ both in subject matter and treatment – and in this way become quite intriguing.

There are also more expensive quality up-market colour images of sunsets, buildings and landscapes – particularly in more ‘exclusive’ destinations. Some of these follow ‘picturesque’ convention. Others seek to distinguish themselves from other postcards on the rack or nearby shopd by seeking new angles and composition. Some use new ways of digital processing that avoid earlier oversaturation and try to interprete views in a novel way for a more ‘discerning’ customer.

Increasingly, standard photographic postcards produced by local photographers seem to be giving way to artists’ cards and a trend for self-processing where people produce cards from their own images so they can record their own personal impressions.

 3.2: Postcard views