Which of these is the easiest to access today?
- Around 1910, my great-grandmother, Stella Vennum Steuteville, took a trip to the east coast with her friends. The trip was memorialized in photos.
- My grandfather, Joseph, "Jay" Andres, was a radio announcer in the 1950's-1990's. The legacy of his life's work in the radio industry was preserved on reel-to-reel tapes.
- Early in my corporate career, I designed systems and wrote complex business agreements. All of which I preserved on 3-1/4" floppy disks.
- When my first child was born, we captured his early years on VHS tapes.
- In film school, we recorded almost all of our film assignments on camcorders using mini-DV tapes.
- For most of my six years as a professional photographer, I delivered digital files to my clients on CDs or DVDs.
Answer: My great-grandmother's 105 year old vacation photos.
Technology is advancing at every turn, which is a wonderful thing, but technology is transient. Advancement means something else is becoming obsolete, even extinct. I think of all the things in my home that are nearing or have reached obsolescence: negatives, LP records, floppy disks, VHS tapes, files made in software that no longer exists. One thing I can count on though, is my old photographs. I have photos from my whole life, my mom's life, her mom's life, and her mother before her. I have those things because nobody had to rely on technology to retain them.
It's amazing to think that our civilization has original copies of ancient texts like the Book of Kells which is over 1200 years old.Understanding that fire and water and mold can happen, the fact is that right now the safest, most enduring way of preserving your photos, the legacy of your family, is to print them. We assume that because something is ubiquitous today, it will be here forever. You may have a CD in your drawer with all the images from 2009 safely protected, just as I had all of my contracts and flowcharts preserved on a floppy drive. Know what? My new iMac doesn't even have a CD/ROM drive. Remember when we all had DVD collections of our favorite movies? My children will never own a DVD player. Your children will probably never own a CD/ROM drive. They may never even own a computer with a USB port. Think about that.
Until recognition software is developed to the point that we no longer have to keyword or label our digital media, we also have to acknowledge that digital photo management is a beast. Unless you have been very meticulous and devoted to carefully labeling all the files you import, you probably have thousands of photos called _DSC-xxxx.jpg and you have no idea what they are, why you took them, or whether or not they're something important to you. That is not the legacy we wish to leave our children. We want them to have photos of themselves, of us, our pets, and our homes.
NOW is the time to print your photos, don't wait so long you can't find or access them. Select your favorite photos each year and print them into a book or series of books. With older children, this could be a fun group project, having a slideshow of photos and choosing the winners. Print enough copies of the book that each child can eventually have one. Choose a few images you really love and order prints. Hang them on the wall or the refrigerator or on your desk. Printing your photos is something you will never regret. A drawer full of mini-DV tapes that you have no way to play will drive you bananas forever.
Working with photographs is one of my greatest joys. If you need help organizing and printing your photos, I am happy to help.