I was going to save this post until nearer the end, but decided that the question of storing & preserving your work needs a little thought, which is better done sooner rather than later. It’s a fairly short post – nothing too technical just thought-provoking.
Storage – what happened to the shoe-box under the bed?
Old family photographs are great! They’re not just a record of you & your family but, collectively, they show how previous generations lived & worked. They’re a record of how our towns looked, the clothes we wore and the cars we drove. They are important.
I worry that, in the digital age where taking 1,000 images in a weekend is the norm for many photographers, a lot of this history is lost via the delete button. Also, how will future generations actually look at your work? I have a camera bought in 2011 that uses a CF card. My latest laptop, bought in 2015, doesn’t have a CF slot.
My first computer, bought in the mid 90s, had 16mb RAM and a 1Gb hard drive. Plus a floppy-disc slot. Windows came on 20 or 30 floppy disks that had to be loaded one after the other. Technology advances very quickly.
So how does a photographer with an archive of 20,000 or more images ensure that they can be viewed in 50 years’ time? CDs? DVDs? Even if they haven’t degraded over time, (and they do degrade – some sources are recommending that you re-burn your archive of CDs & DVDs every few years) they might be as quaint then as a VHS tape is now.
Yet I have black & white photographs that were taken 50, 60 years ago that I can look at now without any technology (apart from glasses!). I know that my ex-wife still has photographs on her mantelpiece that I took & processed over 40 years ago, and I have photographs of me as a child with long-dead grandparents.
I’m not seriously suggesting that anyone should print 20,000 or more images on the off-chance that they might be of some use to someone, someday but it does make you think. I know that Cloud storage is currently flavour of the month but, again, will the suppliers still be around in the future? Will we still have the internet as we know it today?
I don’t know the answers. If you think your work is (or likely to be) important – news stories, fashion, landmark buildings, disasters, major events etc – then you should think about preserving it in a technology-proof way. Suggestions on a postcard please – all I can think of is to take the absolute best of your best and print them to A4. Then interleave the prints and store them in black photographic box labelled with the year and subject. Stick a DVD of the images in there too, it can’t hurt. Seal the box and the prints should still be ok in 100 years.
I think that current recommendations amongst serious photographers are three copies of your “best”, at least one of which is stored off-site. I’ve heard of one photographer who rents a bank safe-deposit box for the DVDs of his work …
Don’t forget that if you aim to be a professional photographer then it is as much, if not more, about being a business man first. A good business plan should have some form of disaster prevention measures to it, and I think losing the whole of your archive would count as a disaster!
As an added bonus, a few thoughts on exhibitions …
I don’t have a gallery, nor easy access to one, so if you’re in the same boat then you have to be a little adventurous.
I’ve suspended weighted sheets from beams and walls to stick photos on and, just last week, my partner & I hosted a joint exhibition in the holiday house that we let out. It’s a very nice house but doesn’t easily lend itself to exhibiting photographs, particularly as we have redecorated the place and didn’t want to make holes in the walls.
In the end, I printed some 70 photographs that ranged in size from A4 to borderless A2, and bought a lot of blue-tac which we used to stick the unframed and unmounted photos to the walls, wardrobes, and cupboard doors. A couple of shots are below!
We’re off to Narvik in Norway tomorrow morning for a few days, so there should be some photographs to show you next time round, when we’ll get back on track with the promised follow-on post to Exposure