Public / Private stuff

Public / Private Stuff

I have been interested to see that the British tv and radio have had quite a lot of stuff about diaries recently. Richad E Grant hosting something, ‘Dear Diary’ for example. This documentary features diaries kept by a number of people over many years… the iplayer info explains:

Richard E Grant, a diarist since childhood, uncovers the power of the diary. He considers the diaries of Joe Orton, Kenneth Williams, Erwin James, John Diamond and Rosemary Ackland and asks whether a diary should, or could, ever be totally honest, wholly accurate and absolutely true.

I was surprised to find the first in this treble episode series to be quite riveting; Richard is quite posh so I found it fun watching him amble about poshly and awkwardly asking nosey questions (pretending not to be famous and giggling like a kid) – there is this great part where his wife calls him while he is doing a webcam thing and he answers ‘I’m just doing the diary programme’ or some such. Anyhow this is all quite weird as we watch him question diarists about why they keep diaries all their lives. He asks whether people should be totally honest – and I thought that interesting as paper based diaries tend to be thought of as quintessentially private writings – unlike blogs, of course. So it is strange to ask whether people should be honest – when there seems to be moral outrage if blogs do not seem to be honest. Why would you be less than honest in a private diary? Today the radio mentioned that the Green Goddess has kept a diary since she was a kid (and is now 70) . Then (Lady) Antonia Fraser was on book of the week reading her diary about her life with Harold Pinter.

So all this stuff about writing in a private way and going public with it is totally age old and I just find it fascinating that there seems to be this widespread interest … also Dr Irving Finkel is assistant keeper in The Middle Eastern Department of the British Museum and his collection of private diaries, written by ‘ordinary people’ appears in the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition ‘Identity: Eight rooms, nine lives’ which runs until April. (I would like to go) It was funny as he was talking about how apparently boring diaries are interesting as they show us things about ourselves. On the radio he read excerpts which included things like ‘ I really hate Lindsay; I hate her hate her” etc…. showing that teenagers have always been the same! But I will be very interested to see if any critics slate this exhibition for being banal – in the same way as they often slate Twitter, or blogs for being so. Or will the fact that they are written on paper (and are a bit less than contemporary) save them this fiercesome criticism? I think that we love to see traces of people – and I like to see the lives of ORDINARY people. There is something that immediately makes things seem special if you put them in a museum – maybe it is the glass cabinet effect that CHANGES the meanings.

Fascinating also, is the stuff you find on Flickr that is so diary -ike. Check out this custom made diary from Traveliter

see all the interesting comments under the photo. And then of course there are all the 365 groups which ask for one photo a day per year – and thousands of people commit to this. Fabulous, I say.

Interesting this desire to leave traces of ourselves everywhere; the web allows us to distribute the narrative across spaces and time and to share aspects of our lives and to provide a particular version (or brand) of ourselves.

The Guardian reported today on someone who one day, scarily, burned every photo he ever took …a professional photographer who had had ENOUGH. he said ‘Photography was dead by 1972′

I am so glad he is less right; i.e. wrong.

Here are some traces of people doing identity work:

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