Boring Postcards USA

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9780714840000: Boring Postcards USA

In Boring Postcards Magnum photographer and postcard enthusiast Martin Parr brought together 160 of the dullest postcards of 1950s, 60s and 70s Britain to make a book that was, contrary to the conceit of its title, both fascinating and extremely funny. It was one of those ideas that seemed so obvious that no one could believe it hadn't been done before, and it caught the public imagination in a big way. In Britain Boring Postcards was discussed everywhere from daytime TV shows to art and design magazines, from local newspapers and radio stations (outraged that their town should be labelled 'boring') to Time magazine. Now Parr has turned his attention to the USA for a new book of Boring Postcards. Just as before, for a postcard to qualify as sufficiently 'boring', either its composition, its content, or the characters featured must be arguably boring or the photograph must be absent of anything that might conventionally be described as interesting. As the study of postcards becomes a field of academic interest, this book offers more than amusement: as a folk art recording of the non-places and non-events of post-war America, it reveals poignant insights into its social, cultural and architectural values.

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Review:

You know those old postcards that show the local meatpacking factory in all its cinder-block glory or the sickening color scheme of a cheap '70s motel room? Well, here they are. Beginning with panoramas of highways in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and other U.S. states, Boring Postcards segues to truck stops, restaurants, motor inns, malls, airports, military bases, factories, tools, and automobiles. Every image is certifiably boring, whether by dint of a photographer's ineptitude (dead-on views taken from too far away) or the sorry state of corporate architecture and interior design. And yet, as earnest advertisements for the American Way of Life, they all radiate a sunny faith in the uniqueness and desirability of whatever they portray.

There's not a word of commentary in this book, but that part is up to you. Certain things begin to stand out as you flip through the pages. Like the always blue skies. (Positive thinking!) Or the potentially interesting details that are uniformly obliterated, thanks to those polite middle-distance views and the muddy qualities of cheap lithography. There's a weird tension between the blandly generic ("Fine Food" reads the only visible sign atop a low-slung white building) and the proudly local (according to the postcard caption, this is "The famous Blue Grill on U.S. 40, St. Elmo, Ill."). In its silently subversive way, Boring Postcards proposes that we look more closely at this hallowed form of marketing to see what it tells us about the values and standards of mainstream American culture. --Cathy Curtis

About the Author:

The work of Martin Parr bridges the divide between art and documentary photography. His studies of the idiosyncrasies of mass culture and consumerism around the world, his innovative imagery and his prolific output have placed him firmly at the forefront of contemporary art. A member of the international photo agency Magnum, Parr is an avid collector of books and a world authority on the photobook.

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Parr, Martin
Published by Phaidon (2000)
ISBN 10: 0714840009 ISBN 13: 9780714840000
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Book Description Phaidon, 2000. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. First Edition. Hardcover 1st Printing as pictured, no remainder mark, new unread copy (no dj, as issued); ob 8vo; unpaginated, illus. Bookseller Inventory # 26950

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