Scarcity of means, wealth of evocation

My paternal grandfather was an avid archivist – not a hoarder, as there were definite criteria at work, but he did collect all kinds of interesting memorabilia. Today I came across a part of his postcard collection and peeked into a time just before mine: a time when the two-hour drive to Vigo we may enjoy nowadays was, back then, a long journey to be undertaken once in a lifetime.

So here is a sample of what tourist shots looked like in the 1950s and 1960s: cameras were a luxury, so good old postcards were the chance to reminisce upon return. Particularly striking is the cramming of four, even five images into the card surface; even more striking is the fact that some images were crudely reproduced in back and white, or slightly hand-tinted. All this distanced the images from the actual locations and narratives to which they referred… and yet this rudimentary quality somehow invited our imagination to mentally reconstruct the journey.

In other words: in their simplicity, in their tangible relation with their own construction and the scarcity of their production, these coarse images manage to be endlessly more evocative than all the hyper-real tourist selfies currently producing themselves on autopilot. The mind needs to bring its own contribution to the process of remembering: paradoxically, a precarious representation of reality ends up being more effective in facilitating remembrance.

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