Wednesday 9 May 2012


Godrevy lighthouse, St Ives, Cornwall

St Ida, St Ives Cornwall

Finding postcards to send when you're on holiday has, in my experience, never been easy. I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime in the last decade it became virtually impossible to find a "visually acceptable" postcard at any seaside resort. Inappropriate greetings emblazoned across the image, crude post-production techniques, bizarre sizes veering too far away from the classic postcard format - kitsch and tacky, tasteless and tawdry - take your pick. Doubtless these are all desperate strategies by publishers to get the attention of passing holiday makers, busy with their hand held devices sending instant holiday scenes to everybody/everywhere?

Frequent visits to St.Ives, however, have yielded some brilliant examples. Godrevy Lighthouse, Cornwall by D.Noble for John Hinde Studios is a pictorial masterpiece. I have spent hours staring at that lighthouse, wondering how and when this image was achieved - the point of view, weather conditions, the photographer's patience and ultimate colouration perfectly capture the seductive ruggedness of the Cornish coast. For me it's a sublime image produced by a company that specialised in iconic views and skillfully constructed scenes.

Recently I came across 15th century angel carvings, out for an airing following restoration in 1962 from the St Ives Parish Church collection. The image offers us a unique close up of twelve of the angels who usually reside in the ceiling of the church, posed in a "team photo" and perched on what I suspect is the church wall - with a spectacular view out to sea (including Godrevy Lighthouse) as a backdrop. Again, it's a timeless image. Matter of fact - possibly. Thoughtful and carefully staged - definitely. 

The angels may appear perplexed by the bright sunlight, but 50 years later this is still a powerful and arresting photograph - a striking example of how archive images can be mobilised to raise funds, awareness, provide food for thought and give pleasure. Hopefully we can encourage other local archives, such as the all too often overlooked St Ives Museum (living as it does in the shadow of Tate St Ives and all those highly referenced St Ives artists), to publish some of the excellent images in its collection. Now that would air some different views - and histories - of St Ives!

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