Photo Essays

Getting Intimate with Strangers’ Lost Notes

One of Daisy Bentley's lost notes (All images courtesy Daisy Bentley)
One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes (all images courtesy Daisy Bentley)

It’s fun to imagine what an archaeologist of the future might make of the found notes — including shopping lists, personal reflections, and angry scribbles — currently on view at Stour Space Gallery in London.

They belong to Daisy Bentley, who has collected more than 1,500 since she picked up her first on a rainy Norwich night six years ago. “To Mr. Smiff,” it read, “Will lobed a hippo on the hall roof can you get it down pleas [sic].”

Puzzled and charmed, Bentley set it to dry on her boyfriend’s radiator. “I remember him frowning upon me,” she told Hyperallergic. “Little did he know it would be the start of such a massive collection.”

Perusing it today offers a voyeuristic thrill; each scrap of paper brings us intimately close with a stranger, letting us in on his or her private life and thoughts, much like a novel does. In one, the author obsessively color codes her emotions — light blue for calm, orange for stressed. Another laments, “Art school doesn’t teach you how to do your taxes” (a sentiment that will likely resonate with many of Hyperallergic’s readers).

Of course, Bentley isn’t the only person fascinated by the ephemera of the streets. For the past 14 years, readers of the Michigan-based Found Magazine have been able to mail in discovered notes for publication, and collage artists have long utilized ephemera in their work.

But Bentley’s massive hoard represents a singular obsession, an exaggerated manifestation of the average person’s curiosity about their neighbors. Her treatment of what some might deem rubbish as sacred reveals just as much about her as it does about modern society. “I find notes, I don’t lose them!” she said, when asked if she’d ever misplaced any important ones herself. “Maybe I’m subconsciously extra-careful.”

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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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One of Daisy Bentley’s lost notes
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