Yesterday I visited the resplendent Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. ‘Only in England’ is a temporary exhibition of black-and-white photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr. In the case of the former, the images were predominately set between 1966 and 1968, many captured on the beaches of southern England.
This was my era and my purview. I would have been nine-years-old, give or take, when these photographs were taken – yet what shocked me about them was how alien they seemed, as if they were from a time before my own; the forties or fifties perhaps. Given my tentative steps towards autobiography, coming across the exhibition right now was a little uncanny, and the dislocation of what I saw with my memories of those years was unnerving.
Is that what age and memory does to us, applies some kind of filter to the reality that was once there, and subtracts that which does not resonate with us – and perhaps supplements, sometimes inaccurately, that which does? If so, how close to truth can any autobiography be?