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Saturday, 05 May 2018


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While you cannot label a TIFF file with a pencil, you can add a text layer and type away!

Print books. Print books of your vacations and your life events. Print books of your daily life. Print a record of your life and what you love.
Books are easy and fun to make, don’t cost very much anymore, and people love them.

They will outlive your raw files.

Mike wrote.." I used to make two recommendations—one was to notate, on the back of prints", very quaint now, unless you're one of the minority for whom printmaking is a part of the hobby. Few people have prints now and fewer prints start out as negatives, and you can't label a TIFF file with a pencil".
"good way to insure the survival of work is craft—people tend to value beautifully made things, "

Mike, Not long ago you were saying something along the line of missing photography and that idea goes along with some aspects (see above) of today's post, photographs being valued or being fatalistic about how it will all get thrown out when we're gone. We now make images that are way less crafted than silver prints are, images are just so much static electricity stored in the bowels of a black box. We view said images in usually a small size on a 72dpi screen. We hardy if ever have a casual visit with these images as one might with a framed print on the wall of a hallway or living room. Drinking morning coffee and day dreaming we glance over and see lovely print that reminds us of the way we felt when we made it and what it means to us - like remembering a lost moment.
Some how static electricity in a computer just doesn't cut it. Press Delete

David’s strategy of creating on-demand books is, indeed, an excellent one if you’ve created a purposeful body of work that you want to be viewed in a very specific way in perpetuity.

And, of course, printing is absolutely the best way to preserve your work post-mortem.

I would, however, caution people not to get carried away with using on-demand books as your primary means for preservation for two reasons. First, the materials of these books tends to be cheap. The boards, the bindings, and the papers, and the inks are selected primarily to accommodate the quickie printing processes used to produce these one-off runs. Blurb ain’t Steidl.

Secondly, consider allowing people in the future to re-curate your work. If all that remains is that book then you’ve shut that door. I could imagine, for example, that one of David’s heirs might want to present his bird images without the quotes in a different, updated conceptual framework. So leave some good loose prints, too.

A good way to preserve photos, or at least give them a better chance of appreciation and survival is to produce Photo Books. A book is far easier to recognise and store. It also provides easy annotation.

Coincidentally I am currently in the process of scanning the 'best' pictures from my black and white film years (1977-1982) in order to put them into a book using an online printing service.

I try to make at least one such book of my digital pictures each year. Hard copies not only have a chance of outliving me, they're much easier to show to people than digital files.

You write that 'those recommendations seem very quaint now, unless you're one of the minority for whom printmaking is a part of the hobby'. Unfortunately if you are interested in preserving your work then making good prints of it is by far the best way to do that, so you need to become part of that minority, or accept that your work will almost certainly be lost.

I am not sure that the reasons for this are widely understood: they have to do with how preservation of digital artefacts works.

The traditional approach to preserving artefacts relies on something I call the 'sacred physical object': to preserve a painting you, well, preserve the painting by keeping it in controlled conditions and dealing with the risk of fire, theft and so on. People have been able to do this reasonably well for a thousand years or so -- perhaps two -- and have become really good at it in the last century.

The sacred object approach to preservation is necessary because the artefacts it aims to preserve start off as physical objects (paintings, say) and are extremely hard to copy. This means that you have to preserve the object you have, because it is the only one you will ever have.

There is another sort of artefact, which is not a physical object but some information stored using a symbol system. These are not new things: written language and written music are examples and have been around for thousands of years. There are two approaches to preserving these artefacts.

The first is to make a sacred physical object from them and preserve that. Shakespeare's first folio is an example of that: there were about 750 copies of it and there are around 235 left. And they are all kept very carefully: they are definitely sacred physical objects.

But there's another approach. If, when I become king of the world, I were to order every copy of every work by Shakespeare which was created before 1700 destroyed, would we lose any of Shakespeare's work? No, we would not: it would be an atrocious act of vandalism but we would still have all of Shakespeare, including all of the early variants. We'd have them because there it is possible to make perfect copies of information expressed using symbol systems, and very many such copies exists of the works of Shakespeare.

So the second approach works by copying: information stored in a symbol system can be copied perfectly which means an endless number of such copies can be made, and the original physical object on which the string of symbols were recorded is not particularly important (do you keep your old SD cards?).

The second approach was hard until quite recently: copies had to be made manually and errors crept in because humans are bad at this kind of thing. So preserving the physical object on which the symbols were originally recorded remained important (of course these objects were often extremely beautiful as well, which helped).

Computers have changed this utterly: they deal entirely in strings of symbols and they are extremely good at copying them with very high reliability. And we have techniques (digital signatures or checksums) which can tell you with certainty if small numbers of errors have crept into copies, allowing you to redo the copy (they can't always detect large numbers of errors in a copy, although they do so with such a high probability that it's safe to assume that they can). We have made machines which can make endless perfect copies of symbol strings, for a cost which is so small that it can be treated as zero for many purposes.

This has changed photography: until the digital era, preserving photographs means preserving sacred physical objects -- making archival prints, keeping negatives in good conditions and so on; in the digital era it means preserving symbol strings which means using computers to make endless perfect copies of the symbol strings which represent them. Everything is now easy.

Except that this is completely and utterly incorrect.

It is incorrect because it misses a critical problem: you can indeed preserve digital photographs by making copies, but to preserve digital photographs you must keep making copies: if you stop making copies, then the photographs will in due course be lost, irretrievably.

The reason for this is that the symbol strings which represent digital photographs live on physical objects -- which I will call 'disks' covering optical media, SSDs (and tape) as well as traditional hard disks -- and these disks have finite and rather short lives. Unless the photographs are copied within the life of the disk or disks they are on, then they will be lost.

A disk might have a design life of five years, and might in fact last for ten or fifteen years, with some variants perhaps lasting rather longer than that. This is never a problem while you are alive: if you change computer every five years then you are copying your photographs at least that often, and you also, of course, keep lots of copies in case one of the copies fails during its design life.

But when you are dead, that endless cycle of copying stops, unless you have very diligent descendants, or unless you are famous. And, within twenty years, everything that sat on your disks is lost, even if the disks themselves still survive.

A fashionable approach to solving this problem is to outsource the process of copying to someone else: you put your photographs in 'the cloud' and people diligently make copies for you. This is not, in fact, a solution: when you die you stop paying for this copying and the photographs go away. And if you are not now paying for it how long do you think they will survive? What happened to all the stuff stored on Myspace for instance? If you store your photographs in the cloud then, when you die, they will be lost within twenty years (rather optimistically).

So, if you want to preserve your photographs for your descendants, how do you do it? You do it the way it has always been done: you select the good ones and you make sacred physical objects from them which you preserve carefully. In other words you make really good prints of them on archival materials and put them in a suitable box, properly labelled, and keep it in good conditions. If you do not do that, your work will be lost: nothing, in fact, has changed.

I recently uncovered a photo book my mother made for a very cute baby -- me. The cute is gone but the book remains.

Mr. Sparks a true gentlemen and has the right idea, along with the skills to match in his photography.

I have been producing a "year book" using Blurb for the last eight or nine years. Ultimately, I plan that the kids will inherit terabytes of images. I figured I might as well put my thumb on the posterity scales. ;)

I have heard a lot of compelling arguments about the archival nature of 101010100's vs. paper/film. All I know: there is something reassuring to my cave-man brain about holding something tangible.

My plan, as I sort through boxes and boxes of family papers and photographs, is to scan and annotate as much as I can with an eye to creating a family history for my nephew. I am thinking of both a digital layout and having a physical book made.

As I handle and scan each piece, I decide what to do with it; trash, archive, or donate. I only wish I had started this sooner when more family members were alive to help.

Save the prints! Who can say digital files last for XXXX years? When will the odd magnetic field show up and wreck a whole batch? I have silver gelatin prints from the 50's that are as good as the day I made em.

I've been periodically making 8x10 Blurb books - very easy to do from Lightroom. After a holiday or visit or trip with family or friends, I assemble a book of 50 - 80 photos and send a copy to those involved. I also have been doing a "Favorites for the Year." It helps me pull my favorites out of the bloated Lightroom catalog of which David spoke. I've made one book of a third type - from a photographic trip to the Canadian Rockies. I indulged in a 12x12 book with lots of full bleed full double spread shots, showing off what modern digital cameras can do ! I have a "Best of" book assembled right now and will upload it next time Blurb sends me a 40 percent off coupon.

Good food for thought! Been thinking along those lines too. My philosophy has always been, "A picture is not a photograph until you make a print."

To that end, I'm thinking of putting together books of my photographic series over the years for my kids. Maybe include a DVD disk with the image files.

Taking a wider view, perhaps along with a box of Grandpa’s favorite pictures Grandpa could leave a physical print of himself ( and Grandma too).

The physical family album my be off topic for this post, but important to also consider. I’m sure much has been written on the topic - this is my favorite: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/opinion/sunday/a-lament-for-the-photo-album.html

Bob Curtis

Yea, great idea, but reality is a whole lot more complex.

A year ago I had to move all of my parents stuff out of their house, except for the stuff left for an estate sale.

What's made its way to a storage locker are tens of thousands of prints and slides. My parents use to give slide shows to the local community as my dad was in the air force reserves and traveled the world and also loved to take pictures of our lives.

The one thing he did not do was ever edit his pictures. Nor make notes about them. So I now have tens of thousands of prints and slides with no notations, comments or GPS. Many pictures are out of focus, end/start of roles, duplicates and on and on. The collection also includes photos from my grandparents and even photo albums going back 5 or more generations. Luckily I was able to give most of those to my cousins to safeguard and they are all notated. We simply use to value photos more. I think we value photos very little today, perhaps video has replaced still photos as the historical medium of choice.

Anyway, Even after 1 year I have not gone through even one set of images as I fear the mountain of images. I have decided that over the next holiday periods I will bring a lot of these images to family gatherings and have family members help with the editorial process. It should be a great shared connection and even perhaps help a bit with my mothers memory loss for a bit.

The mountain of images out there for family members is a monster of sorts as storage cost continue to decline, why delete anything?

I think making well edited, somewhat small "best of" collections of prints is probably one of the best ways of keeping your photos around after death. Photobooks too, but mine have been more prone to damage over time than prints in a good box. The absolute best way to keep your photos around is to make sure they are photos that matter to someone younger than you. For most people, this means your best family photos, not your best landscapes or abstracts or street photos.

As for digital collections, the largest commercial sites like Facebook and Google might be holding on to searchable piles of your photos a hundred years from now, and that might be valuable to a descendent doing family research, if that matters to you. Forget about the carefully labeled hard drives full of tiffs.

Finally, another way to ensure your work lasts is to spread it around. Give prints to people that you took on camping trips together, or even a dinner get-together. Especially give them prints of their kids if you have a chance.

I've long been wondering about the way my photos are never seen, so I've been putting them into Photobooks for the past few years. All on a theme, of course. I've done three 'My Best' so far, two Croft Family History volumes (up to 1954, more to come), one on a 1989 trip through Java and so on, thirteen books up to now, with more to come.

One of your columns set me thinking recently, to do a book of my people images. Yet another image regularly comes to mind for inclusion.

In scanning some of my uncle's images from early last century, although I liked seeing the people, I realised what I missed was more of the surroundings - the signs, products, shops - the way they lived in those days. I encourage people (and me) to shoot "life" as it is now, while it's still here. It disappears faster than you notice.

I'm a bit taken aback that some value their photography so highly.

It's nice to be able to do it well, and it certainly does fill in empty time with less strain than the endless summer job of varnishing wooden shutters (nothing to do with cameras, so relax), but really, after one's time (and probably within it too), why should others care?

The only things that mean anything much to me as photographs are one or two of my late wife; I remember why they were made, and I'd certainly grab them before any camera in the event of an emergency exit from home. That doesn't imply I would require a book of them, or more than the few I have, and anyway, it's not the images but the person they represent that matters.

All other photography, now that I'm retired, is purely and simply for my own pleasure, and I see little reason to inflict it upon others who are not similarly infected by the bug. Are we all too young to remember the inescapable slide shows some delusional relatives thought we were dying to see?

That said, I have to agree that a well-printed photograph is far more pleasing and practical both as decoration and souvenir of what once was, than any file. Probably last longer, too.

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