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May 2004
Naughty but nice...
Deckchair with shoot the devil who invented work
All the fun of a seaside holiday...
When long ago buxom blondes, cheeky chappies and nagging mothers-in-law became the stuff of seaside holidays it was all because of a Holmfirth photography company, according to a new exhibition in Dewsbury and Batley.

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Huddersfield Art Gallery
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Back in the 1900s Holmfirth was something of a rival to Hollywood, and from Moscow to Manchester picture-goers waited eagerly for the next film from Bamforth's.

This small family film was forced to abandon movie-making when it ran into difficulties because of shortages during World War One but by this time its output of postcards was in full swing. Bamforth's Holmfirth studio continued to operate until 1993 and, over the years, introduced many different photograpy-related products but it is now remembered mainly for its comic postcards.

Bamforth postcard

A somewhat sexist message?

The exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery sets out to tell the 'Secrets' behind the saucy postcards, following production through from the artist's first rough sketch to the final card.

One such secret is that over the years the company only employed four staff artists. The long service put in by Douglas Tempest (the first of the artists who started in 1912), Arnold Taylor, Philip Taylor and Brian Fitzpatrick made it easier to maintain a distinctive house style with bright colours and exaggerated characters.

Bamforth postcard sketch
The exhibition looks at the whole artistic process starting with the first sketch

Attitudes seemed to have moved on from the 1950s and 1960s when the saucy postcards were at the height of their popularity and three of today's artists have been giving their own twist to the idea.

Kate Eggleston-Wirtz, from the USA, but now living on the Lancashire coast, has produced three mixed media works which explore some of the images used in the original postcards, looking at some of the racial stereotyping and censorship issues behind the pictures.

A detail from Bonemouth by Olivia Brown
A detail from Olivia Brown's Bonemouth Pier

Hebden Bridge artist Olivia Brown has created a fun pier installation inhabited not by people but by dogs - they sit in deck chairs and have silly photos taken of themselves by the (doggy) beach photographer.

Original Bamforth postcard figures have been brought up to date by Paddy Killer, an artist hailing from Halifax, who has produced a giant textile postcard featuring famous people including Posh, Becks, George Bush and Tony Blair.

The postcards will also be brought to life in a special launch event on Saturday, January 31st, when "lanky George" and "chubby Martha" will be entertaining the crowds, both in the Art Gallery, and outside in the Piazza, with dramatic sketches.

The exhibition is drawn from Kirklees Community History Service's Bamforth collection which includes more than 20,000 postcards and 1,500 pieces of art.

The exhibition is currently split in two. Part of the exhibition is being shown at the Dewsbury Museum until Sunday 1st August. The other part is being shown at the Bagshaw Museum in Batley until Sunday 1st August.

The entire xhibition moves to Holmfirth Civic Hall from 9th August 2004.

All Bamforth images are courtesy of Kirklees Community History Service and must not be reproduced.


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