Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Photographers are sleepwalking into a ‘photographic Armageddon’, warn experts

So the problems of maintaining a photographic archive are now in the mainstream. Once it was just curators and social historians who were worried about all the digital images that we produce. The problem is simple, most people do not edit, identify and name, or back up their images, add to that the uncertainty over future storage and we have an ‘armageddon’. Not sure that is actually such an appropriate word, end of the world would be armageddon. This article in Amateur Photographer explains some of the problems

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This image by William Fox Talbot, showing Nelson’s Column under construction in 1844, brings history to life in 2015. It features in Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860, which runs at Tate Britain in London until 7 June [Photo credit: © Wilson Centre for Photography]

That’s the stark warning from the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) and Photo Marketing Association after Google vice-president Vint Cerf recently warned of a ‘digital dark age’ where data stored on computers will be lost for ever.

Turn the clock back 175 years when the emerging photographic trend of the day was more salt-print than selfie. Photography pioneer Fox Talbot was busy churning out prints from the earliest form of paper photography.

Yet, Fox Talbot’s work lives on today, bringing history to life in an exhibition at Tate Britain that documents daily activities and key moments of the mid-19th century, such as the building of Nelson’s Column.

 

These days, zillions of photos languish unsorted on computer hard drives and mobile phones in danger of being lost for ever if not properly archived.

Such concerns have been collectively voiced by the photographic industry for years. But the message carries extra resonance now that a Google big gun has fired a warning shot across the digital bows.

‘Cerf highlights a real concern for historians,’ observes RPS director general Michael Pritchard.

‘We are still looking at Talbot calotypes from the 1840s and I suspect we will still be able to enjoy these and today’s photographs, if they have been properly printed, in another 200 years.

‘I would be much less confident about anyone being able to view most amateur digital files, created today, in 200 years.

‘How we archive, preserve and make available digital images (and other digital files) for the future is a real concern for organisations such as the British Library and the National Archives and should be a matter of concern for all digital photographers.’

salt-and-silver-main.web_

Newhaven Fishermen, c. 1845 by David Hill and Robert Adamson. A salted paper print from a paper negative, from Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860, now on at Tate Britain  [Photo credit: © Wilson Centre for Photography]

I do think that there is a problem, in the long and short term. Almost everyday I have a conversation with someone who has thousands of pictures of their loved ones, their travels, their work etc on a computer without any identifiable back up system. The back up software I use on my Mac  Carbon Cloner by Bombich uses the strap line, ‘your hard drive never fails when it is convenient’ so true . If you have any sense at all you will have a back up system. I have one external 3 TB hard drive that holds my images, a second identical that I back them up to and a third that I take home with me every night. People say why not use the Cloud, well simple answer, the amount I shoot it would cost a fortune, on Friday I did a shoot and used 68GB of memory. I prefer the physical on a hard drive but I do use the Cloud but not for work only for my personal images. The essence of the Cloud is that if you are going to use cloud storage you need to edit and the edit again and then edit again your images down to the bare minimum of the very best you have. How many sunsets do you need stored?

I am not convinced by the idea of conserving images we need to go back to old technology such as traditional black and white prints, converting digital files to negatives and then making prints. This also doesn’t solve the problem of colour prints that had nothing like the stability of black and white silver gelatin prints. Unbreakable, renewable, future proofed digital storage is definitely where the future should be. So although I agree with this article about the loss of generations worth of images stored on peoples’ computers, phones and whatever comes next is a dis, aster I don’t believe making prints is the answer, just too old school.

I enjoyed the comment in the article

She explains that her son has 2,000 pictures of the child ‘but they are in the cloud’ and she is afraid that companies operating cloud storage services will not be around for ever.

‘I asked my son, “What happens if [the cloud] just blows up?” He replied, “Come on, Mum, Apple is not going away.”’

But McCabe is fearful. ‘Did you ever think we’d drive down Lake Avenue and see Kodak buildings that have been dynamited?

‘Did we ever think that the 58,000 who were employed there would be down to 3,000-5,000 people? Never.

‘No one could have ever imagined that a name and a company that led this industry would be where it is today.
Kodak, where are they now? _MG_1188

Read the rest of the article here and DO SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR ARCHIVE!

 

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