I can’t remember exactly when I stopped carrying a notebook. Sometime in the past year, I gave up writing hurried descriptions of people on the subway, copying the names of artists from museum walls and the titles of books in stores, and scribbling down bits of phrases overheard at restaurants and cafés.
It’s not that my memory improved but, instead, that I started archiving these events and ideas with my phone, as photographs. Now, if I want to research the painter whose portraits I admired at the museum, I don’t have to read through page after page of my chicken scratch trying to find her name. When I need the title of a novel someone recommended, I just scroll back to the day we were at the bookstore together.
Looking through my photo stream, there is a caption about Thomas Jefferson smuggling seeds from Italy, which I want to research; a picture of a tree I want to identify, which I need to send to my father; the nutritional label from a seasoning that I want to re-create; and a man with a jungle of electrical cords in the coffee shop, whose picture I took because I wanted to write something about how our wireless lives are actually full of wires. Photography has changed not only the way that I make notes but also the way that I write. Like an endless series of prompts, the photographs are a record of half-formed ideas to which I hope to return.
The author, Casey N. Cep, also argues that in this world of digital photography, we have all become archivists. It’s a sentiment I wholeheartedly support (and actually, I think we’ve always already been archivists if we have any emotional attachment to ‘stuff’ at all), but it’s a statement that also carries with it tremendous responsibility: what stories will we leave for those who come after us? How will we curate our memories? What inadvertent hints of selves will we leave behind? And in the process, what will we leave by the wayside?
Have a read; the whole thing is here.