We all know the power of memory and how a particular time and place can stay with us forever. And we know that a certain déjà vu or nostalgia can be triggered by something seemingly unrelated: the sound of a zip bringing back memories of childhood camping trips, or the smell of cinnamon evoking cosy winter evenings by the fire. But can an image created by someone else similarly conjure up the feelings of a place and time? And how can this be captured by greeting card retailers?
That is something that I ponder quite often. I think it is a common thought for many photographers and must also be a force of motivation for artists.
Photography is unique in that it captures the real and tangible at a particular point in time. This holds true for all photos, regardless the duration of exposure or whether digital or film is used. A blurry seascape taken over an exposure of a few minutes, a time-lapse of a flower, or dynamic street photography such as powerful conflict photos are all a record of real events.
With many greeting card images our intention is to invoke the spirit of an emotion. Of course, this intention lies behind all artworks, but given the small size of a greeting card – ‘applied art’ if you like – it has to do this quickly and concisely. Not necessarily an easy task, but can it be done?
I believe the answer is that yes, it can. An image on a greeting card can make the customer – and more importantly the recipient – connect with the image and bring back feelings and emotions of a particular time and place.
To help those memories and emotions find their way to the surface, here at Barley Bay we like to distill unique points in time into a greeting card image. Most of the images in our British Coastal range are of rather iconic boats, but the theme running through them is the simplicity, with just three or four distilled elements.
This image of a boat at Dunwich in Suffolk is probably my personal favourite because it was the starting point for this range. I still vividly remember the day. We were on a short extended family break in Southwold, land of my forefathers. The previous day had been wild. It was late October, the sea was deep grey and high, the tide was racing and the wind was close behind. The promenade was lashed with rain. I was there with elderly relatives, and when we came out of the shop on the pier we literally had to hold the frail ones down for fear of them being blown off the pier! Of course, Southwold holds many charms, and in a storm you can enjoy yourself indoors as well as outdoors. In any event, the next day, at Dunwich, was a complete contrast. Whilst it was still bitterly cold, the sea itself was still as a pond and the sky that lovely East Anglian blue all the way to heaven.
And so it was that I captured the images that would become the seeds of the British Coastal range. It really was, in this case, just three or four elements – sky, sea, shingle and boat. I suppose in a way I am intending this image to be iconic of the region and indeed of Great Britain.
Barley Bay has carried this concept over the whole range, with a little variation. So, although the images conjure up a specific memory for me, they are also images that are iconic to the region. I hope that they stir up similar emotions in the browsing customer and, more importantly, the person who receives the greeting card.
We have also underlined the regionality of the images by making them available with descriptive graphics on them. Norfolk, the famed Big Sky Coast, is particularly evocative.
Finally, BB’s textile artist Myra is well-known for her large handmade felt landscapes. This suggestive work summons up the warmth and colour of Tuscany. Our own memories are of a short driving holiday which took us through Tuscany and Umbria, but we find that both the greeting cards and originals also speak to the customer. You can see more of Myra’s original work at www.myrahutton.co.uk.