I read with interest about the sale of Instagram for squillions of dollars, and how its huge appeal lies in a kind of instant nostalgia. A contradiction in terms, I know, but it seems the clever manipulation of photos turns what can be a very ordinary moment or subject into something retro-style, evocative, and definitely less pedestrian.
I quite like some of the Instagram/Hipstamatic effects and if you don't want to carry a camera (or forget to), it can be good fun playing with your smartphone. London's a great subject because it's hard to tell in some places that have hardly changed whether you're in the present or the past. I was in Bermondsey this morning; London Bridge, Borough Market, the little streets and pubs and churches of Southwark are all great subjects for playful photography.
I went to a very good wine tasting on Bermondsey Street (more on winestorm anon), so made a quick visit to the Fashion & Textile Museum to look at the work of C20 women designers. The exhibition focussed on 1950s/1960s fabrics which look great through a Hipstamatic lens because this is how we often see them reproduced elsewhere. But I wondered if the current interest (obsession?) with the mid-century/Festival of Britain look isn't just a touch too rose-tinted?
There were some seminal designs in there (by Lucienne Day and Jacqueline Groag, and this fantastic 'Cottage Garden' fabric - above - by Mary White which I'm sure would sell madly if reprinted as a quilting fabric), but there were also a lot of fabrics which reminded me why the 50s were not always as highly regarded design-wise as they are now. The use of viscose (rayon) and deep, dark, dull colours and repetitive abstract motifs make some fabrics dreary and very rooted in the post-war moment rather than forward-looking. The exhibition is really just a collection of lengths of fabrics plus some magazines and photos; I would guess no-one can cut into these precious pieces which means that it's all a bit two-dimensional.
But it is interesting to see the fabrics and to revisit the 1950s. And although I used instant nostalgia settings on the my phone camera, I didn't have too rosy a view of most of these designs. (I grew up in a house which was built in the 1950s and have memories of 50s fixtures and fittings which I wouldn't choose to replicate now.) This exhibition jumps onto the midcentury bandwagon, but its real strength lies in acknowledging the work of talented women designers in the post-war era.
(The Hipstamatic app also makes the ultra-modern, almost finished Shard look pretty dramatic. The top was in the clouds this morning.)