From postcards to selfies

At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the rise of photography, the postcard became a tool for knowledge. Every village in France was photographed and then transformed into a postcard. For French people who travelled little, these images were a way of discovering their country.

The Musée de La Poste has explored its vast iconographic heritage to tell the story of the postcard, which is also the story of France in the twentieth century.

The birth of the postcard in 1872

From postcards to selfiesFrom postcards to selfies
In this episode, our series looks back at the appearance not of a stamp but of the postcard, which experienced a real boom in France at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1910, more than 250,000 people worked for the postcard industry. However, France was the last European country to adopt it, in 1872.

But very quickly this popular means of communication became a social phenomenon.

Describing life in pictures: from small villages to major events

At the time, the photographic representation of one's town or village was seen as an event. Photographers went around the villages and each event, such as a flood or a fire, was put on a postcard and sent to the other end of France.The user becomes a collector. The cards were not thrown away but placed in albums, each one being proud to show the cards received.

At a time when illustrated newspapers were expensive and reserved for the privileged social classes, the postcard allowed everyone to have a mailed image at a lower cost.

The success of postcards during the First World War

The First World War led to a profusion of postcards being published. Soldiers at the front seized on this cheap means of communication, which allowed them to send the essential information on their state of health in a few words. Military franchise cards were distributed free of charge to soldiers.

After the First World War, the postcard experienced a long period of inactivity due to competition from new communication media such as the illustrated newspaper, the telephone, radio and cinema.

Competition from photography

In addition, photography became more democratic, as the professional no longer had a monopoly on images. Paid holidays and, later, improved printing techniques revived the landscape postcard in the 1950s. It became a must, a desire to prove through images that we were the happiest people in the world on holiday.

But all this is in the realm of a touching but bygone past, giving way to selfies flooding social networks.

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