Saturday, 13 July 2019

Postcard  Stories by Richard von Sturmer  {Reviewed by STELLA}
Postcard Stories does all those things that books should. From the moment you spy the cover — a group of Filipino dancers in brightly checked frocks arranged in front of a smoking volcano — your curiosity will be piqued. It will also confound you a little and ultimately hook you in, not once, but several times over, as you investigate what it is. Richard von Sturmer has chosen 100 postcards from his collection, arranged them into thematic groups and added text (prose and verse), creating narrative dimensions that resonate on multiple levels. Postcard Stories is a gem of a book — charming, curious, and just a little strange. In his introduction, von Sturmer talks about his collecting habits, and his attraction to the unusual or odd. “My own interest in postcards lies elsewhere, in a more eccentric and even subversive realm where the postcard is appreciated for itself, for its own oddness, which transcends whatever scene or image it may represent.” He sees postcards as a portal to places and times, thinking of them as “cells in a giant, universal brain” and as “postcard dreamscapes”.Postcard Stories gives us an opportunity to share in these dreamscapes.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part consists of postcard sequences (16 in total) with a corresponding verse. Each sequence is a group of four distinct postcards that von Sturmer feels resonate with each other — they are linked by a common element or theme. For example, in sequence 5, four postcards all containing monuments — statues — tell a story of escape and discovery. There are landscape images of deserts and roads to seemingly nowhere resonating together even as they are pulled from different places on the globe. There are strange groups of people participating in what might be tourist activities, and ancient wonders sitting alongside industrial haunts. The verse that accompanies these postcard sequences is sparse and cleverly composed, the narrative building between image and text constantly drawing us in, altering our perspective, our way of seeing. In the second part, von Sturmer has selected some individual postcards that stand alone in their oddness. Here he adds short prose pieces that let us look again at the images and notice so much more. In the final section, there is a short homage to postcard publisher John Hinde who would tell his photographers, “You can’t have enough sunsets.” Postcard Stories is initially delightful and witty, but it is ultimately this and more. It is an endlessly curious book that takes you into a realm of imagination and narrative playfulness. In these dreamscapes, you will find much to occupy your mind (and eye).

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