The Power of Postcard

Postcards are still for sale, but almost totally out of use. The postcard ritual is sweet and old fashioned, but it's a nuisance for travelers to find stamps or a post office. Postcard photography shapes our perceptions of a place and it's culture. Traditional postcard photos are often boring, out dated, unrealistically colorized. They tend to present images that cater to a nostalgic, romanticized approach to travel. 

I always wonder how the photographers approached these shots of people, how naturally or contrived the process was. Some are really good. But they make me think I must have missed something because I didn't see people like this. Maybe I need to meet them to be sure that I'm really here in this unique country and culture? Maybe I should choose these images because they prove that I'm "authentically" here?

Most of the time we are happy to embrace the unreality of postcards, choosing a photo precisely because it is stereotypical, sentimental, campy, humorous, or even satirical.

"Art" photography postcards give us different choices. Perhaps more current, realistic, or expressive of a wider spectrum of experience. Still as images they are subject to the same cliches and iconic tendencies.

We have more creative control over our travel photos by taking and curating our own, sharing them on social media, and writing our own captions. This process of personal postcarding is so easy and compelling that the experience of "telling our travel story" can compete or interfere with the experience itself. Maybe this is not a new dilemma, considering the rich history of travel sketching, journal writing and scrap booking. Staying open to real experience before we "tell it" or "name it" in image and word is still a challenge.