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Friday, 15 November 2019


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A good friend of mine had a Walker Evans-like thing going on too in his life. Were I to comment that one cupboard door in the kitchen seemed to be hanging lower than the others, the next time I saw that kitchen all of the doors would have been re-hung. But his office... If a scrap of paper or a book came into his possession, there it remained -- row upon row, shelf upon shelf. When he retired, it all went into a dumpster except one tiny box load that he carried out!

As to digital files, Adobe has me in near-permanent chains because I started with Lightroom and have come to rely on its "digital asset management" tools. There's really no switching at this stage. On the plus side, it's easy to find what I'm looking for...

Well said. My photographic career can sometimes be explained by one word—loss. Over the years, due to an endless series of moves, I have lost all my negatives from 1986. a series of hospital portraits from 1984 (25% of the total), some slides from my honeymoon in 1986, and probably a few more that I have not yet noticed gone missing. These days it's a bit simpler. Everything now has been digitized and sits in my computer (or hard drive) now in front of me. Of the 100K photos that probably reside in my HD, I can find any one in a matter of minutes. It doesn't really matter much any more because when I aim gone, someone will eventually throw out/erase/loose my computer info and that will be it—Poof!

Maybe I can help a little. You prob know this but there are several apps availbale to scan your links (favorites?) and identify duplicates and dead links. Start there. If you use Chrome (and you should) it's essentially baked in. For any other browser, google it and in 2-min you are well on your way.

When we (wife & I) went digital, it didn't take long to realize that my organization methods of chronological shoe-boxes of envelopes from the camera store, and more carefully organized PrintFile sheets with accompanying contact sheets, were obsolete.

My next best thing, still in use today, is chronological folders, e.g., 2018, 2019, with sub-folders named by date, who, camera, and some content info. Recent example:

That gets me close enough. LR asks too much of me, especially when the backlog has gotten enormous.

#When in doubt I throw it out. My system was FUBAR, it took me longer to find something using a bookmark than it did using a search engine. So I stopped using bookmarks. PDF copies of interesting sites are stored in a single folder, in alphabetical order, so that they are easy to find.

Words from the stored PDFs, may be copied into document form when needed (easy to copy-and-paste quotes). And then used for my writings. This works for me, Other's MMV.

BTW my iMac is using a hot-spot, provided by my iPhone, to access the internet. Not as fast as an ISP, but fast enough to do real research.

I am only marginally capable of maintaining some degree of order and cleanliness in real-world spaces, though I do better at work than at home, since some of the things I work with (e.g. certain chemicals) tend to cause problems (e.g. displeased safety personnel, pillars of radioactive flame) if improperly stored. My digital spaces, though, are in quite good shape, with well-organized and consistent storage systems that I have maintained for decades. Apparently, my laziness and my intolerance to disorder balance each other just barely to the side of the angels in the easy-to-manipulate digital world and just to the other side in the harder-to-manipulate physical one.

Wouldn't your browser history help you find the site?

I'm a total newbie compared to you and most of your readers. I started editing in Lightroom, and did nothing beyond editing and giving a star rating system.

Then I wanted to find a photo of a buddy. I went back and retroactively tried to apply keywords. I made several passes trying different strategies, and trying for consistency. I did searches for all edited photos with no keywords. It took days.

I still find photos that don't have keywords and should have. I now realize I've taken enough photos of something that I should create a new keyword, and go back to apply it to all the relevant photos. Yeah, I'll get right on that.

My father told me that to prevent clutter I should put "stuff" into boxes, label and date the boxes and discard any that aren't opened within six months.

When I cleaned up his estate I discarded years of dated and unopened boxes.

He implemented the first part of his plan. I took care of the second.

Last year a friend and former workshop student had a gallery show of platinum prints, mainly miniatures—6x7cm contact prints. One of these was used for the show invitation card, and the gallery sold four of them. Except...the photographer couldn't find the negative. Anywhere. No way, no how.

Luckily she had made a high resolution (1200 ppi) scan of the print as the basis of the postcard. She sent me the file and I made a "ring around" set of digital files with slightly varied density and contrast and printed them out as negatives on single sheet of transparent media for her to cut apart and experiment with. It worked. Nobody ever found out. I don't expect this would have worked with a larger print because scans of platinum prints pick up too much paper texture, but we got away with it with the little gemlike 6x7.

I am disorganized by nature , I feel your pain. But with Photography I have always managed to do broad enough organization so as not to be too onerous but still allows me to find what I need.
For all client work, I always used Aperture which made organization a snap.
My simple rules were ingest all files immediately after the shoot. And cards can only be in one of 3 places: in the camera, next to the computer in the “in process” box, or formatted and back in the wallet. It just became a habit.
My desk, not so much, workshop , no pictures please.
My wife keeps telling me that being disorganized is a lot more work than being organized . I know she is right , it’s just that......we’ll, you know.......

The solution is obvious, a "pre-need" donation of your archive. You won't get the Met, but all you need is a small museum or college program that can attract an intern to do the work. \;~)>

Try the OneTab plugin. It closes all your tabs and makes a page of links to all of them and offers to create bookmarks from them. I use it in Chrome, but there are versions for Safari and Firefox.

It's great for trying to make sense of a few days researching say Duesenbergs, getting into the history of Textron-Lycoming, Eisenhower's speech about the military industrial complex, his trip on what became the Lincoln highway and the creation of the interstate system, which obviously leads to Jack Kerouac's on the road and how they both passed by my elementary school in the town with immigrants from the Azores, which logically necessitates a dive into the history of Pan American World Airways' flying boats, the fascinating lives of Juan Trippe and Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, who was a movie producer whose last wife until his death was an actress in his last movie which was one of Dennis Hopper's first movies, and later Dennis Hopper directed "The Last Movie" which takes place in Kansas but is filmed in Peru and married one of it's actresses, Michelle Phillips of the the Mamas and the Papas, but for only eight days.

But I digress. Look into OneTab.


Not sure how to include an image, but here's a link to the XKCD site that demonstrates the universal nature of the photo-organization challenge:


John Merlin Williams

I use photosupreme for organising. Even if - like me - you're too terminally lazy to add the tags so you can search your pics later at least you have them curated in one place, can go from there to the storage they are on, you can find them by timeline, if they have GPS data you can find by location, and it allows you to store them in a consistent folder structure (handy if the worst happened and your database got corrupted with no backup...)

On those browser tabs - yes I do that :-( But if you use Firefox a couple of tips that can help. First, use the down arrow at the right of the tool bar to display a list of tabs. Second, using % as a wildcard and typing in part of the URL, Firefox itself will find the tab for you and you can go straight to it!

I am certain that the fate of your early digital files will be followed by at least 99.9% of all smart phone pictures today. They are basically ephemera: shoot, share, forget, lose, repeat.

Your story about losing your new post in your browser, fairly boggled my mind! That would seem to bring disorganization to new heights (or new depths). And I thought I was bad!

Thanks. You made me feel slightly better about my photo mess. I have little hope that a professional archivist is going to come along and save the day for me. But maybe I’ll start telling people I use the same system as Walker Evans.

Don't feel bad Mike. I am just as sloppy and disorganized as you with both film and digital.

I do this for fun and attempts at art. My creative release. Lets be real ok? My photos are not that important. I don't shoot historic events. Everything I do will be forgotten when I pass on. It's ok.

"I started a new post on a browser page"
Stop doing that already.

Wow, more than ten tabs and a hundred bookmarks and my brain is fried!
That is seriously out of control.....

To find a page you were working in recently, try looking at your history. You should be able to find where you were with a little time spent going down the list. Since it's in reverse time order, a recent page will be near the top.

A web browser feature of _find the open tab(s) containing this phrase_ might be useful. Care to suggest it to Mozilla for Firefox, giving this index case?

I consider myself lucky that my first few years using film SLRs was while working for a research laboratory. During our field programs, we did a lot of photo documentation and were required to log each photograph taken (time, location, object, etc.) Then when the film slides came back they were delivered to our desks and we had to annotate each slide so that we could match it with the logs.

This discipline continued when I finally began taking my own photos. It has made it easy when scanning slides to know exactly where they are stored and what each slide contains.

Digital has made this a bit easier as I no longer need to log all the particulars of the image since it is embedded in the metadata. I save images in folders that are labeled YYYY_MMDD_{event} and then add keywords as necessary.

Still, there are times that I have been too clever about naming conventions and keywords and still have to search.

As Hugh writes above “ "I started a new post on a browser page"
Stop doing that already.” +1 as they say on t’interweb! I don’t even type a comment in the browser as you can guarantee that if it’s a long one or takes time the browser box will time out* or crash or whatever,

Several people have suggested a search in browser history, which is good but in Safari a text search in the address bar can search in tabs as well.

Also you can copy a page to MS OneNote via ‘Share’ and add a note/tag and file to a folder. I’m sure there are other even better ways of doing this but just keeping tabs open and hoping to hit on the right one sounds impossible to me.

* Itjust happened on this post but I had copied it before the timeout!

This is more or less how I prefer to think of Mike at work:


While, like other commenters, I try to keyword my photos, it’s possible this won’t be as necessary in future... I don’t use any “cloud” photo storage, and keep few photos on my iPhone, but Apple, Google, et al are getting better at automatically “knowing” what’s in a photo thanks to machine learning. But I’m too cautious and old-fashioned to give it a try!

Regarding keeping track of links... I’ve been using https://pinboard.in for years to store links I might need again. $11/year and it’s fast and reliable. You can add keywords and comments to help find things in future. For another $25/year they’ll store the complete page content, in case the original disappears in future (it will!). I’ve no connection to the site.

For someone who claims to be unorganized, you do an amazing job of keeping this blog together, thanks for that.
It is good to see comments from so many others who suffer from organizational disorder-maybe we should start a support group.
But who would organize it?

It often happens that I get into a flap about things which I put in a safe place and can't subsequently find. The ordinary regular stuff is always easy to find amongst the clutter.

I gave up trying to fool myself that I'll ever get the chaos under control. I simply try to keep from being overwhelmed by it. When I watched "In No Great Hurry," the doc on Saul Leiter it almost scared me straight. And I emphasize almost.

I'm still at the stage where I can remember most of the pictures I've taken, so I don't really need a sophisticated filing system. Why? My photo output simply isn't very high.

When I shot slide film, vacations were an excuse to take pictures, and I shot to my heart's content. When I got home I'd make extensive notes about my experience, including the number of pictures I'd taken. One day I decided to compute my average. It came out to about one 36-exposure roll a day.

Now, many years later, we're in the digital age so pictures are free, right? So my output should be a lot higher, right? Well I made that same computation recently and found that my average now is still about 40 pictures a day. No change. Go figure.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

I have committed myself to the task of doing a major winnowing of my digital archives this winter, which has ballooned almost unchecked lo these 15 years. It recently cracked the 150k mark (which proves a very neat and tidy 10k per year average over the long term). Thankfully though, it's simply a matter of scale and not disorganisation.

So, I am currently working backwards through time, flagging any somewhat reasonable keeper. These are photos that can simply make it to first base - technically correct or maybe visually interesting because it is not. Anything that does not meet that first bar is the chaff.

Following that, I'll proceed through and dutifully tag and label the places and faces in the remaining grain - I'm assuming about 25% of the original lot will survive. I've made several abortive attempts over the years to tag photos from the unabridged lump and it is quite tedious, so hopefully this makes it more achievable.

I'm also using this as an opportunity to pull older or forgotten photos out into various themes to illuminate some avenues to pursue for a next project. This is really the driver here - dig in and see what treasure is there.

This is the PLAN, at least. We'll see how well executed it is.

You write your posts online in typepad? Why not just write them offline and copy paste when done?

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