I/Eye: On Photography

Adam Bell on Mrs. Merryman’s postcards

Posted in Other Photographers, postcards by Sheila Newbery on September 3, 2012
Train passing (2011) © Sheila Newbery

Train passing (2011) © Sheila Newbery

Adam Bell writes a beautiful review of Anne Sophie  Merryman’s Mrs. Merryman’s Collection, featured in photo-eye magazine. This is a book of postcards, framed  in the manner of a nested, magpie ‘travelogue’: the postcards are collected not because they relate to a voyage made by the author, but because they suggest many and strange voyages — especially those of the imagination made possible by pictures small enough to touch and shuffle. There are the primary journeys (those of the unknown senders of the cards or the photographers who made them), the secondary ones of the imagination (made by the collector), and the tertiary—those of the author, whose selection  revisits the acquisitive enchantments of all prior sets of hands.

The animating impulse of Mrs. Merryman’s ‘collection’ might be seen as the ephemeral, late echo in our photographic age of the magnificent 17th-century  wunderkammeren — rooms of wonders — which were essentially arrangements of objects (whether by system or caprice)  of natural and manmade origin collected during aristocratic voyages of discovery.   Such collections functioned as tactile encyclopedias of experience, or “mirrors of  contemporary knowledge”. They were meant to educate and amaze — and to bring the visitor face-to-face with the bizarre or the inexplicable.

As aide-de-memoire or a whetting of the imagination, what is the postcard — a nineteenth-century invention — but a printed stand-in for the emotions of discovery unlocked by the cabinets of curiosities?  Postcards are the Every Man’s studiolo or galleria of experience. They are the places we’ve been; the things we want to see.

One Response

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  1. ralphbuttler said, on September 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Auf dem Dao-Weg.

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