Last autumn I was contacted by a writer and photographer called Charles Hawes who was in the process of walking the Wales Coastal Path, and blogging about his experiences. He had seen my most recent book – Wales at Waters Edge – and was planning to review it. Would I allow him to use some of the photographs? Under copyright legislation the use of photographs for review purposes is permissible without the copyright holder’s agreement. However, as the book had been published two and a half years earlier, I did have doubts in my mind about the validity of a review. Did the reviewer really just want some nice photographs free of charge to pad out his blog? I took a look at the blog. He had also reviewed Peter Watson’s photographic book on the Welsh Coast (published about a year before my own), and, quite frankly, it is unlikely that Hawes would be on Watson’s Christmas card list!
I had an interesting exchange of emails with Charles Hawes. While I largely shared his opinion of Watson’s book, I felt that it was unusual, to say the least, to put such a critical review into the public domain. I suspected that my own book might come in for similar treatment, and if that might be the case, why should I allow him the benefit of using the photographs? In the end, he suggested a compromise; he would allow me the right to a reply, which he would then publish verbatim on his blog. Having by that time seen a copy of the review, I felt that – on balance – this was a solution I could live with.
I think it would be fair to say that the review was mixed. Walking the entire coastal path, Charles Hawes has probably seen more of the Welsh coastline than I did. But quantity is not necessarily more valid than quality. He has only only visited one Welsh island, Anglesey, which one could argue is hardly an island at all. As a result, he’s missed out on some of our most special places, many of which I have had the pleasure of visiting. On some occasions he enjoys the wildlife that he encounters, but in general his attention is far more frequently drawn to the towns, villages and man-made structures he comes across. So there was a very clear disconnect between the two of us in this respect and it is not surprising that we see the coastline so differently. What I don’t accept is his opinion that the photographs almost completely avoided its built-up aspect.
Charles has kindly allowed me to add a link to his blog (below) for those of you who would like to further explore the content of the book, and the interesting difference of opinion that it has spawned. Following on from the review you will find my response, and some further comments from his readers. In particular, close to the end is a post from “John” (December 18th) with a further link to his own review of Wales at Waters Edge, which is rather more favourable than the original!
NB. Both reviewers are critical of the text by Jon Gower, and I would like to make it clear that I don’t agree with them………
Click here for Charles Hawes blog
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