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Promises to keep



 

The moment I left home for the first time forty five years ago, was the moment I left home forever. Nothing compares to that kind of freedom. A life on the road, experience just waiting on the seductive horizon. Nineteen seventy marks the beginning of my postcard experience. My first postcard home, from Singapore. A photo of a rickshaw puller, in Chinatown, beaming at the photographer unknown. This postcard delivered the sample of otherness all good postcards can compress into the single image equals one thousand words cliché.



I really wanted them to understand at home, just by bearing witness to the image of the generic rickshaw puller that he could: get me a hotel room, get me robbed, get me laid, get me stoned, get me a bowl of noodles, get me to the airport. Of course the five lines of text I wrote on the flipside made no mention of the fabulous and violent potential of the rickshaw man. They got the picture and its disreputable subtext however.

I wrote postcards home for the rest of the twentieth century. My mother in particular became addicted to them, at ninety five she still asks me to send them to her.

 



 

Out of the nowhere Bernard Plossu, the great French photographer, wrote me a beautiful letter in nineteen seventy three. The letter was his response to some photos of mine he had seen in a magazine. He went to the trouble of contacting the editor of the magazine, Pete Turner at Creative Camera, in order to get my contact address, just so he could compliment me on the work. What generosity of spirit. Small wonder that I still regard him as the closest of friends forty three years later. A postcard discourse soon began between us, this delightful exchange of touristville views, reverential mythologies right out of the rickshaw pullers of Singapore playbook.



In the early 1990’s I worked on a continuing series of my own postcard image and text works. Both as black and white images and then later hand coloured black and white images.

The tourist experience suggested by the post-cards quotes both science fiction and magic realist sensibilities. Old images of mine have been re-positioned in the process, using text/image and hand-colouring to finesse libidinal re-directions which subvert the clichéd poetics of tourism. The album of post-cards is designed as a discretely charged fetish object in delivering the idea of mass tourism meets Zombieland by the Sea. In 1908, more than 677 million postcards were mailed.

This body of work was my response, in the last decade of the twentieth century, to the rapidly vanishing skills of post card mailing and letter writing.

 



 

Maps have always had the power of magic for me. A well constructed map, a beautifully made atlas, has me at hello. It’s not just the cartographic compression of a region and the potential for travel that fascinates me. There is also the exquisite rendering of the mass of continents, the ink blue to pale turquoise gradations of the depths of oceans, the green, gold, brown and purples of the plains, uplands and mountains. The lipstick and mascara typography of the naming of every millimetre.

 



 

Italy of course looks so great and South America is really attractive, but for pure sexiness there is only Australia. I would absolutely describe myself as an internationalist, whatever that means. However when it comes to collecting maps I’m very parochial. Working with maps as a collage matrix for photomedia and narrative allows me to give an overview of months or years of experience following routes across continents or through particular cities.

Max Pam

 

PROMISES TO KEEP

Photography by  Max Pam

Text: Laura Serani

L'Artiere Publishing

2016

Size of the book: 24.5 x 30.5 cm

104 pages - Four-colour printing

First Edition: 500 copies

Hardcover package

Published in English

Cover price: 45,00 Euro (VAT included)