Looking back on 25 years of Exposure Black & White Photographic Cards
Inspired by a love of photography, Exposure was launched 25 years ago as our first range of Photographic Cards and for that reason alone holds a special place in our hearts. The range was initially conceived for black-and-white photography featuring a diverse array of subject matter.
Much of the photography was sourced from pre-internet newspaper archives, illustrating photojournalism and advertising in the '60s and '70s, long before the advent of stock image libraries and digital photography. We also sourced whenever possible from independent photographers and studios.
Most of the images published were shot on film and in black and white, giving the range an unmistakable retro flavour which is difficult to characterise. It’s like the difference between streaming and playing vinyl; there is a warmth that is difficult to describe and which cannot be replicated with digital technology. We did eventually expand the collection to include Colour photography, but that’s another story as they say.
In the early days sourcing images was a real labour of love requiring a lot of time, patience and a keen eye. This was an era before online photographic stock libraries had established themselves and finding images required us to personally visit photo archives where the photographs were held as physical prints or negatives in studios and warehouses. We would spend hours in dimly lit rooms, trawling through boxes of prints and negatives hoping to find the right image. It was laborious work, but in many ways very rewarding.
Many of these archives no longer exist and most collections have been bought up by a small number of digital stock libraries. Prints and negatives have been replaced by digital files for online display and instant download, a process often referred to as progress! Sadly any photograph that didn’t make the cut has long since been disposed of.
Admittedly as a publisher, it is highly convenient to search online for images using keywords and algorithms. While the physical search through unedited boxes of prints and negatives was laborious at the same time it was always exciting as it forced you to consider everything. There was always a sense that you were going to find something unusual and outside any preconceived ideas of what you were searching for.
The highlight of developing the Exposure range was undoubtedly the opportunity to work with Magnum Photos, who rewarded our persistence and enthusiasm by allowing us to regularly visit their London studios and go through their physical archives. This was a real privilege and some of the Magnum images published remain personal favourites. We were also lucky enough to meet with some of the photographers, including the wonderful Bruce Gilden who shot the images on some of our most iconic cards.
Over time and in response to customers buying trends the collection became more humour focused. Much of the imagery published is quintessentially British, reflecting life in the ’60s and ‘70s, often quirky and reflecting a distinctly British sense humour. There are strong elements of satire aimed at the absurdity of everyday life and many of our cards are tongue-in-cheek, including sarcasm, taboo subjects, puns and innuendo. Below is a selection from our archives of some of our favourites from the past 25 years.