Hinde, John Wilfrid (1916–97), photographer and postcard manufacturer, was born 17 May 1916 in Street, Somerset, England, into a close-knit Quaker family, who later became Christian Scientist. His great-grandfather was James Clark, co-founder of the Clark's footwear company. During early childhood he suffered from an illness that left him partially disabled in his left leg. As a result of this condition he spent much time till he was eleven lying on his back, and it was during this period that he developed an interest in photography. In 1927 he obtained his first pinhole camera through a magazine called Modern Boy, and he began to focus on techniques associated with photography. While still at school he befriended a local chemist, Carlos Pickering, who encouraged Hinde's interest in photography and more specifically colour photography. During his final year (1934) at school he attempted, unsuccessfully, to make his first colour photograph.
On leaving school in 1935 Hinde entered Clark's, but the following year became apprenticed to a firm of architects in Bristol. At the same time he made several failed attempts and experiments to produce a colour photograph using the carbro process of photographic printing. During the 1930s colour photography was in its infancy and Hinde realised that success depended on mastering the entire process from taking the photograph to printing. It became his aim not only to take high-quality colour photographs but also to reproduce them to the same quality when printed. To this end he enrolled at the Reimann School in London to study colour photography in 1937 and in the same year became an associate of the Royal Photographic Society. Among his tutors was Frank Newens, the foremost expert of the time in colour photographic printing. In 1939 Hinde founded a studio in London in partnership with John Yerbury, son of architectural photographer Frank Yerbury, and travelled to Germany, where he gained valuable experience in reproducing colour photographs at the printing stage.
Hinde registered as a conscientious objector during the second world war and did some photography work for the civil defence forces. By 1941 he was working for Adprint, producers of a series called ‘Britain in Colour’ and continued his search for a method to reproduce colour photographs on a mass scale. Over the following two years (1942 and 1943) he had seven colour prints shown at the annual exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society, and in 1943 he became a fellow of the society. Between 1941 and 1944 he worked primarily on illustrated horticultural books such as Alpines in colour and cultivation (1941) and Of cabbages and kings (1944). He was also involved in Britain in Pictures, and throughout the period constantly strove to develop a method that would provide the reproductive quality he was looking for. Hinde regarded the colour in photographs as representing optimism and vibrancy, and his desire to reproduce those qualities reflected his desire to promote the well-being of as large an audience as possible.
In 1944, while working on a book called British circus life, he visited the circus to take photographs and was instantly attracted by its colour, vitality, and simplicity. For much of 1944 and 1945 he toured Britain with Reco's circus, and he also travelled to Ireland for the first time (his mother was Irish and he was an Irish citizen). By the end of this period his untiring experiments had paid off, and he had established the conditions that were necessary to make a colour photograph and its reproduction almost indistinguishable. In 1945 Citizens in war and after (with photographs by Hinde) was published, followed by Exmoor village (1947) and British circus life (1948) with Lady Eleanor Smith.
Between 1948 and 1954 Hinde's photography was sidelined. Initially (1948) he toured the west of Ireland showing films in village halls; then he acted as public relations manager (1949–54) for both the Chipperfield and Bertram Mills circuses. It was during his period with the circus that he met and married (1952) Antonia (Jutta) Falnoga, a trapeze artist. In 1954 he established his own show but it closed after only one season in 1955 and Hinde spent the next year taking photographs of Irish beauty spots. In the same year he perfected the mass reproduction of prints of original colour photographs, using a modified Rotaprint office duplicating machine: he had finally achieved his objective of capturing high-quality colour images and reproducing them faithfully on a mass scale.
In 1956 he established John Hinde Ltd. with the aim of producing colour postcards for the tourist market. The first six cards were produced at his home at Bulloch Harbour, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, and went on sale at Shannon airport in 1957. Various factors, including Hinde's technological developments, coincided to make his venture a success: economic expansion and a boom in Irish tourism, combined with Hinde's knowledge of what people wanted. The scene in every postcard was carefully staged to depict an Irish idyll: red-headed children and donkeys typified the style, unwanted details were erased and colours intensified. Hinde described his purpose in these terms: ‘using the medium of colour photography I wish to emphasise the beautiful aspects of the world in which we live and to present these images in a style which would enable them to be instantly understood and appreciated by a mass audience’ (Hindesight). The venture was so successful that the business moved to a purpose-built factory at Cabinteely, Co. Dublin, in 1963, and Hinde began exporting to the UK and Europe. The range of postcards produced grew from 30 in 1966 to 300 in 1970, and such was their popularity that Hinde's photographs helped shape the perception of Ireland abroad and at home. In 1966 an exhibition at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin entitled ‘The John Hinde Story’ celebrated ten years of his venture; six years later (1972), when the firm was selling more than 50 million postcards a year worldwide, he sold it to Waterford Crystal.
Hinde's influence on both the technology of colour photography and the development of a certain image of Ireland has been recognised on several occasions. In 1993 the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) held an exhibition of his work entitled ‘Hindesight’, and in 2003 the Gallery of Photography, Temple Bar, Dublin, held an exhibition of his photographs of Butlin's holiday camps entitled ‘Our True Intent is All for your Delight’. He retired to Brive-en-Gaiard, France, where he died 26 December 1997. His wife, three sons, and two daughters survived him.