What a joy it has been, this 30-day project of looking back, looking elsewhere. As well as being an escape from lockdown, it has reminded me anew of so many things: among them, the role of memory in any person’s life, and what memory, and watching the elsewhere of the world, has brought to my work as a writer.
I have never thought of myself as a particularly visual person, but taking, and studying, photographs has helped to sharpen my vision. I have photographs pinned up all over my studio—black-and-whites from historical sources, as well as my own—and they have found their way into my work in different ways, not always literal.
This one, for me, is an image of ambiguity: the coexistence of the beauty of these northern seagulls and their reputation as disease-carrying scavengers; their freedom of flight and their dependence on the human; my rapture in photographing them and my dismay when I realised, seconds later, that they had left their mark (streaky, green, copious!) on my travel bag.
In the novel I am working on, I am struggling to understand more serious ambiguities than the vagaries of seagulls, but photographs continue to play a role in prompting rumination and imagination.
Trollfjord, Norway, 2014