Friday, October 16, 2015

POST MARKS - spectacular hardback history of NZ picture postcards

by Leo Haks, Colleen Dallimore & Alan Jackson.

ISBN: 9780987654663
RRP: $69.99
Format: Hardback
Imprint: Kowhai Media
Dist by: Potton & Burton
Published: 19 October 2015

Post Marks reveals the pioneer roots of New Zealand culture, the importance society placed on industry and infrastructure and the rapidly changing shape of our landscapes. It includes reproductions of more than 500 New Zealand postcards, many of them so rare they may be the only surviving examples of this early and formative period of the nation’s history.

The aim of this book is to provide an introduction to New Zealand picture postcards and what they reveal. It presents mainly photography-based postcards from 1897 — when the first official New Zealand picture postcard was published — until 1922. This 25-year period includes the boom years in New Zealand postcard production, 1903–1910, and World War I.

Postcards were mementos of where people lived and worked, where they went on holiday, what they could buy, who they should vote for and what they could laugh at. The variety of subjects illustrated provides an overview of New Zealand’s socioeconomic situation — a fairly reliable database of the country and its people during those formative years. Indeed, the widespread availability of postcards on certain topics could justify individual books in their own right: sport, churches, post offices, railways and town views.

New Zealand postcards are notable in that they featured everyday subjects, such as livestock, sport, transport, mining, exploration and developing the land, as well as more unusual topics: a referendum on prohibition in April 1919, aviation, Antarctic exploration, road accidents and taxidermied animals. The coverage of Maori and their lives in this book is, by necessity, confined to interpretations by Western photographers. Publishers and buyers preferred posed, formal portraits. Young, pretty Maori women were especially popular and captions on these cards were frequently incorrect and demeaning to the sitter. Names were usually omitted, except in the case of Maori guides. To our knowledge, there were no Maori photographers at work in the postcard history before 1922. It is interesting to speculate about what Maori would have chosen to record over the same period.

The pictorial record of New Zealand through postcards is not always historically accurate. Early postcards were printed in Germany or Austria, where workers had to rely on their own limited interpretations of what the postcard publisher had written, leading to typographical and other errors. Some postcards were published by commercially or politically motivated clients.

Sometimes it was not so much what was shown or said on postcards, but rather what was not. There were hundreds of cards produced on the subject of World War I, depicting people leaving for war, going into battle, recuperating on hospital ships, fundraising at home and more. Meanwhile, the postcards which were sent home by the soldiers were subject to rigid censorship. Words were blacked out if considered negative, and if a sentence was deemed ‘anti-war’, the card would be destroyed. This intervention may have made the war effort seem less horrific than it was in reality to those at home.

Post Marks will have wide appeal because it offers a rare sampling of images that record New Zealand’s economic and social history from a period now beyond the living memory of most New Zealanders.


Leo Haks always liked to find things and discover their place in history. He has been collecting items of artistic and cultural significance all of his life, particularly items for which there was little professional or even general interest. He has published books relating to several of these collections, including one on early Indonesian postcards which preceded and provided the stimulus for this book. After making his home in New Zealand with co-author, Colleen Dallimore in 2008, Haks began collecting early New Zealand postcards and the resulting comprehensive collection, supported by images from other collectors, deserves to be documented and shared.

Colleen Dallimore was raised in the hills of Banks Peninsula, a fifth-generation descendant of French settlers at Akaroa and great-granddaughter of an English immigrant photographer who exhibited in the 1906 Christchurch Exhibition. After graduating in Fine Arts from Canterbury University, Colleen pursued a teaching career in Art and Art History and remains a practising artist with a special interest in photography. She and her partner Leo Haks continue to explore what constitutes our New Zealand identity.

Alan Jackson has been an inveterate collector since childhood. As a boy, he began collecting postage stamps, and when his interest in these waned, the collecting bug persisted. He has since formed extensive collections of ephemera, all connected in some way with the post: New Zealand and other postal markings, pictorial postcards, Cinderella stamps of the world, especially those relating to World War I. He has also written extensively on these subjects.

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