Lonely Planet Writer

John Hinde’s nostalgic images of Britain and Ireland newly restored

For the first time ever, the original photographs that English artist John Hinde used to create some of his most famous postcards have been restored and assembled in a book. Known for his colourful portrayals of holidays and leisure in Britain and Ireland from the 1940s onwards, Hinde used distinctive colouring techniques to create vibrant, dreamy depictions of a specific era that inspired people to travel.

Bodinick Ferry, Fowey, Cornwall (detail of original photograph) by Elmar Ludwig. Image by John Hinde Collection / John Hinde Ltd
Bodinick Ferry, Fowey, Cornwall (postcard) by Elmar Ludwig. Image by John Hinde Collection / John Hinde Ltd

Born in Somerset in 1916, John Hinde took photographs for many series of books, including Britain in Pictures and Garden in Colour and famously photographed London during the blitz, which were used to illustrate Citizens in war – and after, published in 1945. Hinde travelled the length of breadth of Britain and Ireland, as well as European and African countries, taking images to produce as postcards, and when his company sold in 1972, it was the world’s most successful postcard company, with annual sales of over 50 million postcards.

In 2011 the John Hinde Collection was entrusted with the task of scanning and digitally restoring some of the original transparencies that the artist used to print the postcards half a century ago. While the postcards are recognised for their innovative post-production techniques that saw specific details being “coloured in”, the archive wanted to show the original photographs as they existed before any edits and additions. The resulting project is the new book, entitled John Hinde Collection, which features the original photographs printed alongside the corresponding postcards.

Piccadilly by Night, London (original photograph) by Elmar Ludwig. Image by John Hinde Collection / John Hinde Ltd

“This is the first time a book has been published showing John Hinde studio’s photography with details and comparisons. These images now provide a valuable document of the leisure industry boom in post-war Britain, as well as the rise in modernism, hope and positivity. If it wasn’t for John Hinde and his photographers, there wouldn’t be colour photographic records of many of these cities, monuments, and seaside towns,” Michelle Abadie of John Hinde Collection told Lonely Planet Travel News. Scenes in the book include a policeman directing traffic in the heart of London, a plane refuelling at Dublin Airport, the inner harbour at Ramsgate in Kent, a family looking out over Achill Island in County Mayo, Ireland and the famous Pleasure Beach in Blackpool.

The Bathing Pool, Ramsgate (detail of original photograph) by Elmar Ludwig. Image by John Hinde Collection / John Hinde Ltd
The Bathing Pool, Ramsgate (postcard) by Elmar Ludwig. Image by John Hinde Collection / John Hinde Ltd

The large-format photographs also show some of the detail lost in translation in the comparatively smaller postcards, and in some cases, small groups of people become visible in scenes once again. While the photographs hold artistic importance, they have also been used as reliable historical documents. “In some cases, the images have been used by lawyers and surveyors as the only existing reference, for example, for rebuilding clock towers or getting planning permission to rebuild a crofter’s cottage. There are many people interested in how places have changed or not, seeking out the original location for funfairs or lidos that no longer exist,” Michelle said.

Crooklets Beach, Bude, Cornwall (detail of original photograph) by Elmar Ludwig.
Crooklets Beach, Bude, Cornwall (postcard) by Elmar Ludwig.
Image by John Hinde Collection / John Hinde Ltd

Limited copies of the book are priced £18.95 (€21) and are available now through the John Hinde Collection website.