Friday, 1 March 2019

Postcard Havana

Walker Evans was a lifelong collector of postcards – by the time of his death in 1975 he had acquired more than 9,000 examples, all filed away in shoe-boxes and now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Evans expressed a strong preference for cards produced before 1925 and held a very low opinion of cards produced after that date. It’s unlikely that his Havana trip of 1933 added much, if anything to his collection, and some of those shown here would not have met with his approval. For a longer discussion of Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard from 10 years ago, please follow this link.

The city views of Havana show a neat, tidy and well mannered colonial capital with a fine stock of Spanish Baroque buildings and pre-date Evans’s visit by about three decades. Widespread civic neglect and a rising tide of corruption and criminality later left their mark on the city. What Evans saw and recorded in 1933 was blistering paint, crumbling plaster and networks of subsidence cracks. The final postcard shows the famous Hotel Nacional which opened for business in 1930. In October 1933 it would sustain serious damage as a result of gun battles between pro-Battista and anti Battista factions, following the deposal of Machado. Still more postcards from Havana can be seen by following these links, Havana Deserta, Calle Obispo and Baling Tobacco.

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