Before heading to our next fieldwork spot a bit further north, we take an hour to reflect on our recent discussion on future research and prepare for the sound walk we will soon join.
We are standing on the beach. From the café a little way away, voices come to us. Conversations, laughter. Clouds wrap around the mountains. What we hear corresponds to what we might expect given what we see: gentle waves, absence of engines, seagulls crying, and distinctly chattering while watching us stroll along the water under their boathouse. We still take our time observing dead jellyfish and small creatures that continue to live in and with the creature’s decaying body. We slow down as we walk over pebbles, stones, shells, foraminifera, algae, ropes, straws, fish skeletons, and concrete mixers; we touch the ground, smell, look, and listen. A man in a checked shirt and cargo trousers, a Janowa professional photo bag over his shoulder, and a camera and tripod in his hand walks briskly past us, slightly frantically looking for a spot. Having found it, he rams the tripod into the gravel and photographs the fjord in several directions, eventually focusing on the dead jellyfish. I stop, because he could be important for my next research project, and ask him what brought him here. ‘Friends, nature, the peace away from the city.’ He comes from southern Europe and has lived in northern Norway for some time. I ask a few more questions, during which he continues to take pictures. I wait, then I say, ‘Thank you, I’ll leave you to it.’ ‘Yes. Thank you,’ he replies. He does not say ‘finally,’ but I hear his unspoken relief.
Later, as we conclude our sound walk, the conductor tells us he is looking for silence, ‘silence not as the absence of noise and sound, but as the absence of other people.’ For me, the photographer was an opportunity, for him, I was an intrusion. And he? And for whom was the jellyfish an opportunity, and for whom was it an intrusion? Besides seagulls and photographers, for which human and Earth kin is my presence an intrusion? When is it an opportunity?
Katrin Losleben and Elizabeth Barron