Throughout Paul Kelly’s childhood his father, Patrick Kelly, sent John Hinde postcards to him in California when he was visiting the land of his youth. By the time he was nine, Paul was accompanying his father on these trips, and developed his own love of Ireland. His father died in 2015, and in 2018, Paul came back to live in Ireland with his family. His book Return to Sender is his tribute to John Hinde, whose jewel-bright Ireland was the stuff of his childhood dreams. It’s also a tribute to his father.
John Hinde was a pioneer of colour photography and one of the most successful and prolific postcard publishers in the world.
His largest collection of postcards celebrated Ireland. In them, he portrayed an island brightened by his imagination: a place where children were red-haired and freckled, the sun always shining and the sky forever blue. His idealistic images were to become the stereotypical portrayal of Ireland for many years, and to this day elicit nostalgia from viewers worldwide.
John Hinde’s great success reflects the postwar expansion of the tourist industry in Ireland, particularly the growth of the American vacationer. Hinde promoted his romanticised scenes well before the development of digital imaging and social media. They depicted an Ireland people wanted to remember but were in stark contrast with the realities of the stagnant economy and repressed society of the time.
Return to Sender pairs Hinde’s iconic postcards of Ireland from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s with corresponding contemporary photographs. The side-by-side contrast of these then-and-now photographs illustrates the ways Ireland’s rural and urban landscapes have changed over the decades or, in some places, not changed at all.