Whenever I’m working on a project, I have a dedicated notebook on the go. I’m not precious about these as artefacts – at the end of each year, I type up and photograph any relevant pages before recycling. The images accompanying this post by @anguscarlyle are all from my 2023 Arctic Auditories notebook.
My notebooks have all kinds of functions. At their most pretentious, there are affinities with what Michael Taussig has to say about the notebook in “I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own” in a quote I’ve used often in class: “the fieldwork diary is built upon a sense of failure—a foreboding sense that the writing is always inadequate to the experience it records. Nevertheless, on rereading by its author, the diary has the potential to bring forth a shadow text that can simulate the experience that gave birth to the diary entry, not only for what is said, but more likely for what is omitted yet exists in gestures between the words. This is what Barthes called the ‘role of the Phantom, of the Shadow’”.
Though Taussig talks of the notebook’s resemblance to “a magical object in a fairytale” and suggests “the point is that a fieldworker’s diary is about experience in a field of strangeness,” I try and keep journals that are more ordinary, their details stretching (with the field itself) to include what happens here, where I live in the UK, as well as what goes on in Tromsø / Romssa and, in parallel, to extend the timeframe from the period away to hours spent preparing and reflecting. Some texts and drawing were made there, away (the two grey mountains were rendered with boot polish in the rain after a hike up a valley, the colours added later in my cabin, the written place names after I’d returned to the UK). Some texts and drawings only appeared here and later (the light blue writing on the page with the leaf include doodles made during a Teams meeting). Going through my photos and deciding which of these to print out and add to the journal can help recirculate memories (though, what was not photographed might struggle to raise a shadow).