In this new series we take a tour through the archive of John Hinde – arguably the most famous photographer you’ve never heard of. In the 50s and 60s, his brightly coloured postcards sold in their millions, and while they might have fallen out of fashion, they provide a snapshot of what travel was like at the time.
Welcome to 1960s Florida – a backwater paradise about to be launched as the holiday destination of the future. These days it’s known as the theme park capital of the world, but rewind 50 years, to the time captured in glorious technicolour by John Hinde’s postcards, and things look a whole lot more sleepy.
Despite its latitude, Florida has never been Southern in the Mississippi sense, but the Sunshine State has long been a haven for travellers – especially for the snow-birds evading the harsh winters of the north-east coast. However, while historic getaway mansions stretch along its shorelines, in the era before mass-tourism really took off, the stream of visitors was more of a steady trickle than a raging torrent.
The influx of sunshine-inclined folks from across the continent did however, create an unusually Pan-American vibe, an effect heightened by its location. It might border on Alabama (and have earned the nickname “the redneck riviera”) but at its southern tip, the Keys archipelago floats perilously close to Cuba – the USA’s sworn Cold War enemy. The Floridian mindset has always mixed North and South American influences.
“The nostalgic postcard snaps make the heart yearn for an idealised past that never quite was”
The state’s relative proximity to the Equator also saw the Kennedy Space Centre’s foundation there – attracting waves of tourists to gape in awe at rocket launches on the Cape. It was perhaps in part due to this that the 1960s was the moment when Floridian tourism really kicked into overdrive.
Over the following decades, theme parks and roadside attractions sprouted up along the state’s brand new highways. In retrospect, these attractions have a quaint, ramshackle quality. (Disney World, with its slick branding and seamless ride design, wouldn’t arrive in Orlando until 1970). But in Hinde’s photos, all that lies ahead.
What Hinde has captured instead is the innocence and optimism of a time before Florida got tacky – a time when square concrete hotels looked modern, and coloured beach shelters weren’t seen as a throwback.
John Hinde’s life was a fascinating one. Having worked in the Circus throughout the 1950s, he quit the big top to pursue a life in the new medium colour photography. Adventuring around the world, he helped forge the idealised postcard style that became ubiquitous during the postwar travel boom. His snaps have the giddily cheerful, hyper-saturated quality that leaps out at tourists around the world to this day.
To look at them now is to see a celebration of all things nostalgic – they make the heart yearn for an idealised past that never quite was. John would eventually sell his business to pursue painting, disavowing the commercial cheese he had produced as a photographer – but by that time his postcards had sold by the millions, and they remain to this day his enduring legacy.
Taken from the John Hinde archive, these images extend a warm welcome from 1960s Florida. Wish you were here.
Clem Fiell is a London-based writer and Social Editor at Amuse.