We visited Hay-on-Wye, the book town, for the first time in many years, remembering fondly the search for interesting titles in the many second-hand shops, often coming away with bags full of books. Hay was definitely the sweet shop for the reader.
On this occasion, however, it felt slightly different. Our regular visits were mainly in a pre-internet age. There was no Amazon, and there were definitely no ebooks. This time, as I walked the rows of bookshelves, scanning the titles, I couldn't help but think, what I really need is a search engine!
When I did find something interesting, I questioned whether I needed the print copy or whether it was available as an ebook. This made me reflect on the different choices I now make. I am not a purist who prefers the look and feel of a real book, I like and value some printed books, mainly reference books. Most fiction I am happy to read on an e-reader where I can change the font size and the brightness of the screen - very useful with aging eyesight!
Also, I now question the space required to collect books and store them. In the end, many titles go full circle and return to the second-hand shops, replaced by electronic versions stored neatly in alphabetical order on the cloud.
Of course, a similar tale can be told about photography. When I first started going to Hay-on-Wye there weren't any digital cameras (commercially available, that is). Negatives and prints were the only output. Today, I capture all my photographs digitally and 90% or more of the output is viewed electronically. I like physical prints and own a decent A2 printer but I only print a small proportion of my work, although I still have boxes of stored prints which don't get opened often enough.
For some, the digital world has devalued photography and its accessibility means that, in one sense or other, we are all photographers, sharing vast volumes of images online, creating a deafening photographic noise. For others, like me, photography has never been more exciting. We live in exceptional times and we are creating an unparalleled record of the world we live in. The challenge, I guess, is how we make sense of this record and present something meaningful and valuable that cuts through the everyday noise of photography.
In the meantime, this is my latest contribution, not a loud bang.....more of a small a squeak!
The selection includes: Charles Darwin in a pyramid structure outside the excellent Cinema Bookshop; rows of books in the honesty £1 section, the Murder and Mayhem bookshop, and a statue of King Henry VII. Apparently there is a plaque below the statue, which I missed, that boasts, 'Henry VII first Welsh king of the English':
Finally, the conditions weren't great for landscape photography but I did record some of scenes by the river Wye and the remnants of snow on the Black Mountains: