Scientology leather-bound book. [Alamy image ref. BMX73M]

I don’t know much about Dianetics or Scientology – apart from the usual inferences about “cult” status that are bandied about and the connection with celebrity actors such John Travolta and Tom Cruise – except that the founder of the organization, L. Ron Hubbard, was also a science fiction writer, traveler and quite a good photographer in his own right. When only 17 years of age he captured the seven turns of the Great Wall of China in a rare photograph shot near the Nan-k’ou Pass. He also amassed a superb collection of photographic equipment made into a permanent display at Saint Hill Manor at East Grinstead in West Sussex.

To continue the photographic connection, I was given the above leather-bound special edition of the Dianetics manual by a well-known Nikon dealer in the UK as thanks for an article I used in a photo magazine I published many years ago. Although I browsed through a few pages – and quickly realized the subject didn’t interest me – I thought the attractive leather cover and logo made it a nice looking book worth photographing for Alamy. My other thought was that there was a very good chance the subject – being controversial – would come up in searches on a regular basis… which has proven to be correct as this image, and my other more detailed shots of the logo or symbol have been zoomed a few times.

There’s probably a good market for unusual or many other special edition book covers, especially when obviously made as quality presentation editions. Amazon announced this week that their sales of e-book downloads for the Kindle e-reader have outstripped their sales of paperbacks for the first time. How long before all real books become collectors items?

Used recently as a photo in a retail book (print only) with a print run up to 50,000, 1/4 page 3-year license under my “Beaux Arts” pseudonym.

Folded book pages, Book fair, France. [Alamy image ref. B32GGY]

For four days in August the historic town of Angles-sur-l’Anglin in the Vienne département of France holds a book fair which rivals anything I have seen in the UK, including the permanent attraction of Hay-on-Wye – otherwise known as “Book City” – on the Hereford-Welsh border. It attracts bibliophiles from the Centre, across the Poitou-Charentes, as well as many “bouquinistes” (booksellers) who normally line the Seine in Paris but pack up their folding tables and battered cardboard boxes of books, folios, manuscripts, letters and posters… and bring them down to Angles for the annual occasion. 

Angles-sur-l’Anglin is one of the officially recognised “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ” for good reason, and has attracted many English visitors since it was their final stronghold during The 100-Years War  of 1337 to 1453. 

As it’s only 45 minutes away I usually visit each year’s “Foire aux Livres” on a couple of occasions and generally add to my Alamy stock with a selection of images ranging from candids and street performers to views of the historic town and it’s ruined chateau… as well as images of interesting book displays.

On the last visit I found, on the stall of a bookseller from nearby Poitiers, a wonderful display of books whose pages had been folded very precisely, but in different ways, so they formed paper sculptures. I’ve done similar exercises myself with old Stanley Gibbons stamp catalogues – having around 1,000 or more pages – to act as a break from correcting images for Alamy QC (there must be a name for the madness brought on by continued use of Adobe PhotoShop). 

Not having any studio-like conditions to shoot in, I had to edge my elbows and camera between browsers and bibliophiles and poke my 55mm Micro-Nikkor as close as possible to the paper sculptures – quite often waiting for any breeze to subside so the pages would stop flapping and quivering. There’s no need to go into further technical explanations of depth-of-field at close-up distances… suffice to say that what was actually in focus, whilst shooting hand-held at around f/8, were perhaps half a dozen letters of one word on two or three overlapping pages. 

This type of subject, and even more so effect of looking as it was taken on an iPhone, is more the type of image one sees on Tumblr  or Flickr blog pages… but perhaps editors and their projected readers are getting younger and appreciate the “snappier” style. However, a very similar image to the one above sold on a 5-year license to Italy for a textbook (print & e-book) with a print run of up to 25,000, inside 1/4 page under my “Beaux Arts” pseudonym.

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