Saturday, October 20, 2007

Where have all the pictures gone…long, long time ago?

This is probably a subject that has been discussed many times over, and yet, I still do not know the correct answer. The question is: should I print my images or save them to a digital media?

In the film era, you would typically shoot a roll of film, bring it to the corner drug store or local photo studio for developing and printing. In my case, back then, I used mail order for most of my development and printing needs. I used to get two 4 x 6 prints of each picture because the difference in price between one print or two prints was minimal. I would put my best prints in photo albums, and the negatives and the not-so-good prints would find their way into a shoebox. It may seem archaic to a new generation of photographers, but the albums were always accessible to show friends and family. It was fairly easy to bring an album with you to show your friends at work or to someone else. After many years of collecting albums and shoeboxes full of negatives and not-so-good photos, it was rather difficult to catalog all of my collection. Once in a blue moon, we would get all the albums and shoeboxes out and spend a whole day digging and looking at old photos with family and friends. We would all have different memories of the same events; “Oh, I remember that!” “Look how skinny and young I was!” “That was such a nice vacation. We had a good time” It was a good way for a family to get together and reminisce over good and bad times we’ve had.
The above shows the wall of my office, with some of my prints.

And then came digital. I went nuts over digital. What a giant leap for photography. Instant review of your images, no more film to develop, no more prints of the not-so-good images, almost unlimited post processing of your images, easy cataloging of your images or files with computers and software, and the list of benefits goes on. Memory cards are getting cheaper all the time. Hard drives are bigger, faster, and can hold thousand of images. The files or images can be copied to CDs and DVDs for safe storing.

Well, that’s the way it has been portrayed to all of us. The reality can be quite different. Sure, some professional photographers and fewer hobbyists are very meticulous in saving and cataloging their images. They duplicate all images and save them on CDs and DVDs almost religiously. They are a very small portion of the digital photography world community. Be honest with yourself, how many images or files have you lost? I know I have lost so many that I stopped counting. I think they are saved on a CD somewhere, but I don’t know where for sure. I can look at my CDs, but I don’t know what is saved on them without getting on the computer and searching endlessly. I don’t think it would be enjoyable to spend a whole day with friends or family, looking at CDs or searching your computer hard drive.

My wife, who doesn’t really like nor want to search electronic devices to find pictures of the grand children or vacations memories, reminds me all the time of how she dislikes the digital photo albums. She is always asking me to print images so that she can affix them on the refrigerator, in her office, and in an album she can show to friends, etc.

As for me, I keep shooting, and saving file after file of great photos that may never be seen in printed form. It is so much work to print all of those images and besides, I have to take some more pictures. I just don’t have time to print all my images. Last Month, my wife asked me to retrieve all the nice photos I took while visiting Galveston five years ago and I just got on my computer and got them right away…..Huh! "Let’s see, I had a different computer then…..I think they are in that bunch of CDs in my filing cabinet….no… I guess they are on my current hard drive… Huh! Well, I can’t find them right now, but I will in the next few days." That was a while back and I have no idea where the Galveston photos are.

So, I am now trying to catalog my files but I really should make prints of the good ones and put them in shoeboxes or albums. Decades from now, my children may be able to spend a whole day looking in my shoeboxes and albums and reminisce about what it was like then. In decades ahead, CDs will be outdated and new recording media will be introduced. Files will be lost in the process because files are just that, a digital encoded form of the real thing, living in cyber space. However, the shoeboxes and albums with real pictures on real tangible paper will likely still be available to look at, by future generations.

Photo albums are the recorded journey of our life and experiences. Don’t you think they have a better chance to survive as real prints rather than digital files? That’s what I’m going to do from now on…as soon as I catch up with my current projects. :)

Thanks for reading,

Yvon Bourque

Update:

Click on image to enlarge.

I live in Southern California and for the last three days, as many of you may know, wildfires have spread over much of our state. From our home, we can see one of the fires up at Lake Arrowhead. Last night, we could actually see the flames jumping and the orange glow in the sky. It is like watching a volcano erupt. The smoke is like nothing I have ever seen. I have also been watching people on TV being evacuated (over 500,000) from their homes and what they bring with them if they have the enough time, are pets, insurance papers and photo albums. So... we should do both; save our favorite photos on paper and on photo sites such as flickr.com. Our hearts go out to all that are having to go through this tragedy and to the many firefighters, military, police and volunteers working together to end perhaps the worse fire in the history of this state. And yes, sadly I have been taking pictures of the fire. Hopefully, we can look back and will have learned from some of our mistakes when it comes to our enviroment.

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