John Hinde: Our True Intent is all for your Delight – Butlin’s Photographs
The John Hinde Butlin’s photographs are a glorious moment in the story of photography. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the John Hinde Studio, based in Dublin, produced a series of postcards to be sold at Butlin’s holiday camps throughout the British Isles. Famous for their hi-de-hi catchphrase (taken from the Cab Calloway song), redcoat hosts, and bargain packages with all entertainment included, this was Butlin’s heyday. Anticipating the later success of Disney and other holiday theme parks, Butlins attracted over a million visitors for a week’s holiday each year from the 1950s through the 1970s.
With innovative use of colour and elaborate staging (the trademarks of a John Hinde postcard), it was the challenging job of two German (Elmar Ludwig and Edmund Nägele) and one British photographer (David Noble) to execute the photographs to Hinde’s rigorous formula and standards. Each photograph is elaborately stage managed, with often large casts of real holidaymakers acting their allocated roles in these narrative tableaux of the Butlin’s quiet lounges, ballrooms and Beachcomber bars. Shot with large format cameras, and lit like a film set, the production of these photographs were an extraordinary undertaking. The images helped John Hinde become one of the most successful postcard publishers in the world.
Most of the John Hinde Butln’s photographs have only ever been published as postcards. The book and exhibition photographs are reproduced from the original large format Ektachromes. They prove to be some of the strongest images of their era.
“As with all Hinde imagery, they show an idealised view of the world and, after the passage of time, acquire the power of a lost dream. The most remarkable thing of all is that the cards were painstakingly produced not for any aspirational ideas or as great art, but as humble postcards to sell for a few pence to
– Martin Parr, from his Introduction.
JOHN HINDE was an important pioneer of colour photography in Britain and, since the Irish Museum of Modern Art Dublin exhibition in 1993, is becoming recognised as a significant figure in the social history of photography. His career began in the early 40s in London as a photographer and photo-enthusiast, absorbed by the new technology of colour photography and among the first to be published in colour, in early colour magazines and in essays made for the illustrated books Of Cabbages and Kings, Citizens in War, and British Circus Life. While on assignment for the latter, he decided to join Chipperfields’ Circus as its manager. While on tour with Chipperfields, he met his wife, the trapeze artist Jutta. He decided to start his own circus in Ireland: bought a circus tent, hired performers and began to tour. The venture was a disastrous failure.
Without losing his entrepreneurial spirit, he returned to photography having identified a gap in the market for colour, rather than monochrome, postcards of Ireland. He began on his own, issuing his first 6 postcards in 1957, before recruiting a team of photographers, mainly from Germany (because of German photographers’ high technical standards). He became one of the most successful postcard publishers in the world. John Hinde died in 1998, in retirement in the Dordogne, having sold the postcard publishing company in 1972. His archives are part of the Royal Photographic Society collection housed at the Natonal Museum of Photography, Bradford.
Curated by Martin Parr. Produced by Chris Boot.
In Association with Les Rencontres d’Arles
Accompanying Book: OUR TRUE INTENT IS ALL FOR YOUR DELIGHT, The John Hinde Butlin’s Photographs
Introduced by Martin Parr. Published in UK/Europe by Chris Boot, May 2003. ISBN 0-9542813-0-6. Price €39.95 Photographs © John Hinde.