I've seen things you people wouldn't believe

Year: 2008 - ongoing


Whenever I travel to a new city or country I try to find postcards that are printed completely black and state the name of the place as being depicted by night. These postcards are becoming harder to find with the joke apparently having now become somewhat old.


Postcards of places, cities and countries usually seek to reveal all that is fantastic about them. Glossy images of spectacularly lit landmarks fill the souvenir shops peddling a holiday brochure ideal of a place that relates more to a state sponsored fantasy than the reality experienced by the disappointed tourist.


What guide books and travel agents have perhaps eroded over time is a sense of our own individual discovery. The books tell us what to see, where to see it and obviously how good it is. All of it is 'exceptional', 'the finest', and 'unique'. Cities and exotic locations are further mediated through the movie lens of Hollywood and the world. America even ran an advertising campaign once here in the UK that said 'You've seen the movies, now visit the set'.


So familiarised are we that when we do eventually have chance to visit a place for real you can experience a sense of deja vu and even the doubting of your own understanding of reality. Walking the back streets of Venice for the first time propelled me back to my watching the dark and menacing 'Comfort of Strangers' many years ago. The film, of an Ian McKewan short story, tells of failing love played out across the city and, just like 'Don't Look now' or 'Death in Venice', these cinematic constructs can create a sense of the uncanny in your own reality in a way that is perhaps comparable to visiting the Venice casino in Las Vegas. Which Venice is real?


As time passes and the collection grows, memories fade and I get to rely more and more on imagining what these towns and cities look/ed like around the world - with the familiar landmarks becoming vague recollections you begin to disregard and disrupt the cliche imprint of the saturated picture postcard postcards and that cinematic style that we now so readily see curated on Instagram. In so doing, a make believe sense of adventure slowly returns to reinflame exotic ideas of travel.


Sadly I never did find a 'Venice by night' postcard, in either Venice.


In late 2018, ten years on from starting the collection, I received an email out of the blue from someone living in Germany - 'Hi', the email said, 'I collect these also. And I have a duplicate from Venice. Do you want to trade?'


How perfect is that?


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