‘You take old letters from a crumpled heap,
And in one hour have lived your life again.’
From a poem by Mihai Eminescu (1850–1889), translated from Romanian
When I rediscover an old handwritten scrap of paper or notebook, it often amuses me what I felt it important to note. When moving house last year I found a holiday notebook from the 1980s, written in my early teenage years. I had made a point of listing the things I had photographed frame by frame and the cost of the film and processing. As an adult, my scribbles have become freer, expressive, much less pedantic. Reading my teenage notes prompted many memories: Written in pen, before email, internet and text message were part of our everyday, during a pre-technological ‘teenagedom’ that I feel very fortunate to have experienced.
From being very young I developed a habit of writing things down, a habit that has continued throughout my adult life. The experience of remembering from a handwritten journal entry is, for me, quite different to that of a photograph; my remembered experience of a place may not be visually accurate, but a different type of information is offered with a note. It is not just the choice of words, but the pen I used, the quality of handwriting showing haste or care; a rough surface leaned upon; the pressure of my pen; the quality of paper and the focus of the text. There is much to ‘read’ within a photograph but handwritten notes also show much more than the words are saying.