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Friday, 18 November 2016


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I truly have done that, and not just every year or two, but continuously for nearly 50 years. Now I'm 79 and have a ton of stuff to edit, but since I'm still working, I'm too busy to do it! I hope to create some Blurb-type books for my kids and grandkids before I run out of time.

Couldn't agree more. Some of my favorite pictures I have from my college years (~20 years ago now) are just of my apartment. Nothing special, nothing remarkable. But it's nice to have a record. Something to show my daughters when we're talking about "when I was a kid."

The record-of-life pictures I wish I had is my first car.

Great post and exactly the same wise advice David Alan Harvey tells every one he mentors.Document everything you love or means something to you and is close by. No need to travel far, just turn round and a LOOK.

You reminded me that I did just that when visiting my daughter in her first apartment last month. I was waiting for her to come home and decided to document all the little things around the place. Nothing special, just snaps, but I knew they would seem interesting to her in another 20 or 30 years.

It's a good idea to just bulk process these shots if you don't want to spend the time. Jpegs act both as proofs and are somewhat future proof.

I spent several teenage summers reading standing up in Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, CA (back when Menlo Park was a sleepyish hamlet, and not the home to many a high-tech bazillionaire). Nothing wrong with reading standing up.

In fact, sitting down is demonstrably not good for our bodies - more wisdom to share.

He who dies with the most toys wins.

Not really, you are still dead—and your heirs are now stuck with throwing-away the collection. It may have been precious to you, but it probably is not to them.

I was born before WW2. My grand parents were born before the Wright Brothers flew. I can remember looking at stereo photos on a neighbor's late 1800s wooden stereo-viewer, and now we have VR headsets. Little that I've learned has any relevance to the younger generations. Times change rapidly, and what worked for me yesterday, has little relevance, to me, today.

My only advice is clean-out the garage before you die.

BTW, neither cancer or hart disease is the greatest cause of death. Birth is, simple but true.

A number of my regrets have to do with not having documented my life adequately. In my case it often surrounds computers I worked with, since that's been my career all through. I also wish I had some photos of some of my earlier cameras (not that photos of other instances of those cameras are hard to find).

Sometimes, work was hard due to rules (still is, though cell-phone cameras make it easier even if it's still against the rules).

Outsides of buildings, yes; places I lived, places I worked, places friends lived. I've missed documenting restaurants I went to a lot.

I find that teaching young students can be a useful counterbalance to feeling wise with the weight of the years.

If you get impatient, there are a number of hair products now that simulate natural grey or white hair, you could try those!

Hear! Hear!
My biggest regret (at age 55) is that I didn't make more effort to document the people and places around me. I have a lot of pictures, but so much has vanished that I don't have.

My current project is to scan and organize the boxes of family photos I have - made only slightly harder by being the last member of my immediate family. Simply, there is (almost!) no one left to ask to help identify mystery people and identify locations that have either changed drastically, or have vanished altogether.

Ah, Chesterfield's Letters. The item that usually springs to mind is his comment on sex:
"Sex: the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous and the expense damnable".

But try telling that to kids these days...

I also wish that I had taken better care of my teeth. As I tell my daughters (in their 20s), be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you.

Seriously, I have a few years on you, Mike, and have been part of an alumni/engineering student mentoring program for three years now at my NYC alma mater (Cooper Union -- I think I used to be much smarter). The kids sign on to the program to get advice and take advantage of the experience of the old fogies such as myself (and I am not the oldest mentor in the bunch).

I have shared with my three students the highlights of my career and some of the lowlights too -- and some of the sharing goes beyond work to include living a balanced life. We have not gotten into the issue of dental hygiene, but there has been a definite connection with each of them.

I was taken aback a bit, but still flattered, when one of the kids asked me for advice about a girl in whom his interest was not reciprocated.

Not every one of the engineering students attending the school participate in the program, but the feedback I have gotten is that those who do, appreciate and use the guidance they receive. I know that my students because they have told me and were not blowing smoke.

Great post Mike. I think the Carly Simon lyric from "Anticipation" (the refrain of which was hijacked by Heinz Ketchup) is also very powerful in this area of thinking:

"And tomorrow we might not be together
I'm no prophet, I don't know natures way
So I'll try to see into your eyes right now
And stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days."

To remind ourselves that these are the good old days. The sometimes mundane images we shoot today become the classic photographs of the good old days. It just takes a while for them to mature and grow.


Dunno who coined this one, but it certainly often feels true: "The only thing you can do with advice is give to someone else."


"..if I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my teeth.."

You've lifted that from "Peggy Sue Got Married", haven't you? (Final Act, Peggy Sue is talking with her grandfather, before he sends her back to the future..)

The last two months I have been busy making my slide archive digital. Many photo trips I can hardly remember. Especially the ones with the artistic abstract approach I had after just leaving art school forty years ago seem very boring and dated. Later on I learned that registering things just as they are, let’s say making a straight ‘portrait’ or ‘mug shot’ of any subject, is the style that survives best.
It’s the Mitchell & Kenyon approach. In Edwardian Britain their role was to seduce people to come to the cinema with movies in which they could observe themselves. No selfie sticks yet in 1900!.
M & K just put the camera on a tripod and registered street sceneries of the towns where the main program was shown. Thus local football matches, factory gates and other ordinary daily activities supported the main artistic program. Now after more than a century the last ones are forgotten for they are not half as interesting as the plain sceneries of Mitchell & Kenyon. Here's a nice one to start:


Our local shopkeeper on the day he sold his shop and closed it down:

I was there, with my iPhone.

(The shop has since re-opened as one of a chain of small big-chain groceries ..but not the same at all!)

"Many great quotes eventually become folkloric—and if they do, they are then usually attributed to a handful of people who are held to be wise." Of course! That is why the New Testament gospels are attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. None of the writings identify the author, so a century or so later they were assigned to famous people.

As for chesterfield, I make it a point not to talk to sofas. I'll talk to animals but I draw the line at furniture (tongue in cheek).

I did photograph the places I worked when I worked there and the people I worked with but frankly, I don't ever look at those photos. Recently I seriously considered throwing them out because none of them involve fond memories, many quite the opposite. As a genealogist OTOH, I totally agree with you. Record things, but be selective.

This was a very depressing post to read when, like me, one is approaching 70 years of age. How can I recapture those lost years now?? Oh well, I'll just have to settle for 'telling stories around the campfire'.

[That was my point. At our age we regret not having pictures of things that have passed by, so we counsel the young to save a few memories, and they ignore us because we're old and not with it. :-) Same as it ever was, I guess. --Mike]

Good grief, Mike, so full of wisdom for such young bloke! I'm 74 and have only just clarified in my mind that these two things should be top of the list of to-dos.

I've had trouble all my life with my crummy teeth (my dentist flatly refused to accept the reality that teeth, like everything else biological, are subject to the bell shaped curve, i.e. some people have strong teeth, some weaker, and I am on the weak end). I was about to getca little filling in a front tooth last week, then the day before the appointment, I bit into an only moderately hard substance and the tooth broke off! What???

Very importantly regarding teeth -- if you don't have some decent choppers in old age, your diet is going to be knocked about. You have to have good teeth to eat well and tastily (you can, of course, whizz up everything into some kind of juice drink, but it not only looks boring, it tastes boring).

The documenting stuff. Not only do it, but get in the picture yourself! I prided myself on being NOT in the picture. Now I see the kids and grandkids being so thrilled when they come across a rare picture of me.

The other thing is to look after the stuff. Nearly all my color slides went to a mouldy grave; the B&W negatives largely survived, thank goodness. I just didn't care for them properly and there was a lot of bloody good pictures of interesting things there.

About the only thing I did right was date stuff; I was forced into that by the fact that I was selling pix and text features, so I HAD to keep track of them.

I was behind the wave moving to digital cameras, but should have scanned lots of my pix 10 years earlier than I did. The next step is the next storage format.

Got to be an early adopter on these things.

And there is nothing like well made prints. My old 10x8" glossies from half a century ago are still great.

Cheers, Geoff

My advice
Don't edit or cull your work. I've been going through a lot of old work and the five or six frames I would burn off at the end of the roll of film are the most interesting 35 years later.

Sometimes the most interesting thing turns out to be the background. Here is a photo I took in 1978 where the ruins of the west side highway and the WTC in the background are arguably as interesting at the person in the forground.


The rest of the site, not mine BTW, is one of those "this ought to be a book" websites and worth a look.

Excellent advice, though I'd counsel it applies to everyone not dead.

The days are long, but the years are short.

Mike wrote, "What I suggest is: every now and then, document your life."

Isn't that what Camera Roll is for?

"...every now and then, document your life..."

I've done this several times but in words.

On many trips that we took as a family I would write about it using pen and notebook. Years later, I transcribed these pages into digital format and passed them on to my son. When he read it he was delighted as he still had memories of these trips but could not put a place or time to them. The diary filled in the pieces. And, of course, there are snapshots to go along with the diary.

"What I suggest is: every now and then, document your life."

No. Tell me that you didn't just suggest that Generation Selfie "document their life". These folks don't document much else. Their lives, their homes, their breakfasts, their tattoos, their... There has never been a generation that's stood in front of lenses as much as today's young people. Their OWN lenses.

Agreed. The corollary bit of advice is to print stuff out (important) and label it (even more important). A family keepsake of ours is a reasonably well-labeled family album from the '30s kept by my parents. Much less guesswork is involved than the four laundry bags-worth of unlabeled photos we found in my wife's parents' apartment when it became time to clean up after them. The eye that took the photo has a passing chance of recalling the subject. Kids and grandkids just see a bunch of discolored photos of unknown people dressed in quaint costumes. At least with labeled photos you can tell which ones are safe to store deep or discard.

"I wish I had a picture of that now."

Mike, good advice no matter what age you are, but as the young generation take pictures with cell phones seemingly everywhere and all the time, perhaps they’re better off.

This reminded me of a similar post, with the picture of the streetlight that was removed:
(Did they ever replace it?)

Periodic photographs of our everyday lives and surroundings anchor our memories. My father photographed our local town centre where our family had a music store in the 1950s to 1970s. You wouldn't recognise it now - all ugly apartment blocks and shops, but I have happy memories of drinking ice cream sodas on hot summer days in a milk bar after school, near our family store.

Recently that entire block was flattened to build shops and apartments. It was to the right of this 1963 photograph taken by my father, of me holding the Brownie 620C - and no, I can’t find any negative for the missing block, or milk bar.

This is what I ended up photographing a few months ago - too late, the milk bar long ago replaced by a video store (remember them?) and the once-familiar now a construction site:

Paul Van said: Simply, there is (almost!) no one left to ask to help identify mystery people and identify locations that have either changed drastically, or have vanished altogether.

My father died last year. One of my children is going through 80 years worth of his photos. Sometimes I get asked who is this?, and usually I have no clue. Except for some of his lifelong friends, a few relatives, scenes from his time in the CCC and the Army, everything else (about 99%) is going into the dumpster.

Living in the Past, is just a song written by Ian Anderson. Your mileage may vary.

Well obviously Mike, if your hair isn't turning white soon enough you aren't worrying enough! Maybe the next four years will fix that!
And you forgot the most important piece of advice to give young people..... "You'll remember this when you get older and have kids!"

"To the famous goes the fame"--Yes, it strikes a chord. I just found out that in a review of the historical timeline leading to this new invention that is rocking biomedical research, CRISPR/Cas9, the author cites a landmark publication from 1988. Only thing is that we published exactly the same results six months earlier. Well, I am over sixty, so these things don't matter any more. As to the other point, I will be forever indebted to my father's uncle and then my father, who recorded their family lives around them since about 1915, and left a precious collection of family albums, and negatives, including some glass plate negatives.

I resonate with several comments above. I have an archive of several 10s of thousands of shots, from which a few thousand jpegs edited out are accessible. And I'm almost never in them. But they do constitute a document of my life. That was especially true for the boxes of 1968-1980s Tri-X negatives in the garage that I keep hoping to scan. Their contact sheets are in good shape, the portfolios less so, the stabilization prints hopeless.

Couldn't agree more.

I came across a 50 year old photo in a box I was looking through after my dad died. It showed myself and two buddies, wet from having just gotten out of a swimming pool, arm in arm, each with a can of Budweiser (which at age 15 was a BIG deal). A fourth friend had taken the shot. The photo was majorly scratched and worn, and after scanning and cleaning it up in Photoshop and making it recognizable, I was able to email it to the one of the three buddies with whom I have stayed in contact. I wish I had a hundred more photos from that time, and from the next year, and the year after that, etc.

I'm about to turn 71 (in just a couple of weeks) and I would say this about becoming a Wise Old Man: when I was 60 I still thought I knew something; now as I'm almost at 71, I'm no longer sure I know anything at all.

There might be some sort of wisdom in that, but I think wisdom only counts as such when it tells us what to do or not to do or at least what our choices really are. And I no longer trust myself to be telling other people what to do, even indirectly (except, insofar as I am capable of it, which is probably not very much, by example.)

I've always been more interested in documenting the world around me than in documenting my own life, and I keep trying to take pictures that have as little of me in them as possible, that aren't at all expressive of me or anything or anyone else, either. Of course that's an impossible task, which is, I suppose, why I can stay interested in it.

Or maybe I'm just nuts.

A friend of mine once sent a friend of hers (who taught photography at one of the big art schools in New York) to look at my pictures. She did, and then she began making all kinds of suggestions about what I could do to make my pictures more interesting, exciting, even creative. After listening to about half an hour of this I realized that what she meant was that my pictures would be a lot better in all respects if they were more like Gary Winogrand's.

I very much admire Winogrand's photography, and I'm sure my pictures would be much better if they were more like his (what a standard to live up to), but I've never been interested in being either original or derivative.

About thirty years ago a painter friend told me to stop worrying about originality: "you can't prevent it," he said.

Not many people seem to get what I'm trying to do, and the longer I work at it the further I think I am from achieving what it is I have in mind.

But a few people (other than friends and family) seem to get it, and what more can one ask for?

A concluding quote (from somewhere unknown): "people with low expectations are seldom disappointed."

Really like this post and have enjoyed all the comments.

Regarding teeth - Right On! This is especially funny coming from me, since I was briefly a pre-dental major about to enter USC School of Dentistry! A brief trip to Northern California turned me on to "nature". I never returned to Southern California, thank Gawd.

But regarding my own life - not so right on - except for a period between 1964 and 1978, during which I was a photographer and participant in an on-going struggle to establish the Redwood National Park and expand it.

After all those momentous years were over, I felt it wise not to hang onto all the negatives, slides, proof sheets and notes, but to donate them to the Park Service for historical purposes. Now researchers can actually read about the collection:


What has been bum is that researchers can't see any images, simply because none have ever been digitized - until now! Still being "young of heart & sound of mind" 45 to 50 years after taking the photos, I have been hired by Redwood National Park to finally scan a significant number of the 5,000+ images & document them further, so they'll eventually be viewable online. This pleases me immensely.

The conditions in which I found myself taking some of the photos - and my expertise in some of those moments - made a few of the photos pretty bad but such is life.

Speaking of which - the rest of my life is a more significant void :-)

"Picture things. I mean just the mundane things. The quotidian things. The daily dull reality."

I've tried to drill this into both of my children, both girls.
They each have a nicer camera than I could have dreamt of in my 20s, Nikon D90 and a D3200.
I stress to them to not forget the "record keeping photos."
I remind them that when they, and all of us really, look at old Christmas photos for example, we diligently scour the photos for glimpses of old favorite toys and exclaim, "How could I have forgotten that!" or "I LOVED those Shreck house shoes!"
We are reminded by the glimpse in a photo of the corner of and excitedly describe "Mama's old coffee table with the such and such pattern carved into it..."
Even when I'm out by myself with my camera and, say, photograph a new mural on the side of a building, I take several photos of the whole building and it's surroundings. I have learned well that a single subject is always in a place, surrounded by stuff and it's always important for me to reminded of the subject's context as well.
Five years from now, there might be a high rise there and I'll fondly recall the sea turtles mural on the Old Florida Cracker style building that was there back when I photographed this spot.
Heck, it's hard to even explain isn't it?
I just know, and remind them that someday they'll look back at old Christmas (or whatever subject) photos and appreciate having even a couple of mundane whole room views because in the future, the Hello Kitty Christmas paper torn and cast aside might be the thing that brings a smile or a tear for the remembrance.
I'll shut off my ramble now, for everyone's' sanity.

Quotes: Ned Kelly, a famous bushranger (outlaw to you) when he was hanged in 1880, was rumoured to have said, "Such is life" and it's become lore. But recently it was debunked. He said a few things according to news reports of the time, but that wasn't among them.

I'm about to turn 70 and I'm blessed with a fantastic memory. I did a photobook in 2015 of My Life So Far, little knowing that it would take a completely new direction in March this year, having miraculously found my long wished for life partner. I'll have to expand it soon.

I'm lucky that my father was a keen photographer and I have all his photos, with many more from his brother, a newspaper photographer. Then I took it up at about 19 and so my life is very well documented, with many, many hundreds of photos.

My intention is to do a Memoir while I can still remember it all, before it's too late. I had to do a school reunion magazine entry in 2014 covering the 50 years since we finished high school and I found it just poured out. I wrote 40 pages, with more than 50 photos, seemingly with little effort. That just skimmed the surface, of course. I was very surprised that most people could only summon maybe one page, most with not even one photo. That's all, in 50 years?

One thing I've done is used the Outline feature (of Lotus Word Pro, still my word processor of choice) to make a series of headings and sub-heads, which can be expanded and re-ordered with ease. I've done about 30 A4 pages just of these up to around age 19. I stopped then and I must get back to it before I forget.

Finally, fluoride. It's been in the water in Western Australia for more than 40 years and young people have wonderful teeth. I know it's controversial, but you're in far more danger just crossing the street. Unfortunately, dentists say the craze for only drinking bottled "spring" water is causing the very young to miss out on fluoride protection. Craziness.

Your article title is confusing. What precisely do you mean by
'photographer' in "Advice to Young Photographers"? Is it
budding professionals, avid amateurs, average people who
use their iPhones frequently to take pictures in their daily

After working in the IT world for 30+ years and being a "photographer" for over 50 years, hers is my put.

The film based world is better for long term storage unless, like me, you put your negatives/slides in a place where the mice can get to them and eat the emulsion off of the acetate.

Coming from the digital world, digital images are extremely fragile. I have gone through multiple storage media starting with cassette tape, floppy disks, stringy floppies (look it up, it was on my TRS-80), Zip drives, hard disks (MML, RLL, ATA, SCSI, SATA), Flash drives, Serial ports (RS232 - USB), CD/DVDBlu-Ray and offline (tape, NAS, server, cloud) storage. Each new generation of storage pushes into obsolescence a previous generation of technology. Each new OS release further reduces the number of "supported" interfaces. (MacBook anyone?)

Once a new interface is "out there" we all slowly but surely follow along with the possibility of making our archives obsolete. So those old DVD's or USB drives you have your precious images on, will not be available for your future generations (if there are any) because the hardware/interfaces will not exist.

Sad state of affairs, look at them while you can. Future generations will not have a clue as to what they are. Cloud stuff will disappear too, once you die, or it will be locked up by the "vendor" until such a time that they decide that their storage technology needs to clean out the attic.

In the early 1960s I worked as a news cameraman for channel 11 in Toledo. Among the anchors was John Saunders who was the son of Alan Saunders. He took over writing the Steve Roper and Mary Worth comic strips from his father and did them on the side. Although I never met Alan Saunders, I do remember seeing him driving through town in his antique Rolls-Royce which was in perfect condition and quite a sight to see.

As far as preserving historical images is concerned, I remember that we did monthly documentaries about local subjects, many of which would be of historical significance today. Unfortunately, the station usually disposed of the film after it was transferred to videotape. And several years ago the station decided to dispose of its library of 2 inch videotapes since now there is no tape used at the station… It's all computer servers. Not many of those tapes were transferred to digital media before the tapes were destroyed. Of the images which were transferred, many will disappear when the servers become obsolete and the next best thing replaces them. Many local TV stations appear to have little interest in preserving historical images because they can't see any profit potential from them. We are the losers for that.

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