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Wednesday, 28 July 2021


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Back in the 1980s, I did an O-level photography course at a local Further Education college in north London. My tutor said one of the problems of being a photographer was deciding what to photograph. To the point where he had given up taking photographs, and instead visited local pharmacies and bought up prints that customers had brought in for D&P and not returned for. He would then search through them looking for gems. It seemed an odd thing to me, but each to their own. He did show us one film, where someone had carefully photographed a potted plant from different angles sitting on their lawn.

Go through the old photos in the tomato boxes, bags, drawers and in the attic. They are still there and easily viewed.
In 30 years(and even now) when we are gone and the relatives and kids start clearing out our stuff for the big Rummage Sale - will they even look at the digital image files? Will they even be able to open the Photo CD's and BluRay discs some of them are stored on?

We are losing our history. A shoe box full of CD's won't even be looked at by most who find them, even if close family. At best they will become 'clay pigeons' for skeet and BB Bun practice.

My sister sent me a CD with a large collection of old photos. Poor quality scans aside, not one had any identifying information. That makes going through them an exercise in frustrating futility.

I too am guilty of not making notes on the backs of old photos. Note to self: do the some day.

At the other extreme a friend is a compulsive photographer with several terabytes of carefully annotated photos ~both recent digital and scans of old prints. I have to think a sheer size of a collection that large will be a deterrent to anyone willing to sit down to browse tens of thousands of snapshots.

Aaaah. The travails of photo collections.

I too inherited a suitcase-full of photographs from my, and my wife's sides of the family. As time has gone by, I (at age 61) no longer have an 'older generation' to tell me who many the people on the photos are, except that my Aunt, with an interest in genealogy, had put names on a few. Perhaps if - as Daniel has written- we are losing our history because it's in digital form, it could be protected by a body of the size and expertise (maybe in AI) of Google who could bring some order to a vast collection of old and anonymous photos, and keep them viewable. Desirable or scary?
Having written the above, I also realise that the scanned 'shoebox' of old prints and negatives, when I put them on Smugmug were, as far as I can tell, never looked at by the wider family, so my role as conservator was quite futile.

In the photo of Don’s grandmother on a horse the sky through the trees and the highlight down the horse’s leg mimic the stance of the rider. I began to think it was some sort of artefact but I think it’s just coincidental or my imagination since no one else has remarked on it.

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