Friday, 29 August 2014

Solitary Man

The figure of a solitary man (and it usually is a man) is not uncommon in the postcard universe. Often he’s there for an obvious reason – to display an unusual phenomenon. Such as the world’s largest cabbage, meteorite, lump of coal, boll weevil, coffee cup, etc. Or he has a custodial task, presenting an unusually fine horse, dolphin, alligator, dancing bear or tree stump for public admiration. Another figure might be demonstrating a skill – use of an ice axe or shovel, herding sheep, gathering fruit or flowers. There are exceptions, occasionally a child will be recruited though female figures are normally exhibited principally for their erotic potential. Such cards offer simple entertainment for connoisseurs of the absurd but more interesting are the single figures for which there is no obvious explanation. In an otherwise empty sea-front pavilion a single figure gazes soulfully at the distant horizon and suddenly a drab scene is relieved by the germ of a narrative. Some figures are accidental or incidental presences, others deliberately posed to enhance the scene with a sense of scale, sometimes hand-drawn in a desperate effort to alleviate tedium. Loiterers and loafers who just never got out of the way for photographers who couldn’t be bothered to retouch them out of existence. A minority are very well concealed – at the Postcard Memory Palace there’s a tag for “emptiness” and more than once a hawk-eyed observer has pointed out the presence of an infinitesimally small figure. 

1 comment:

Zedabee said...

Simon Jenkins on a recent visit of Barack Obama to Stonehenge uses an image that's just crying out to become a postcard. Did the blessed Princess Di merit the same treatment at the Taj Mahal? See