Thursday, April 22, 2010

Will photos always be immortal?

Last night, I finally sent Annie's "first year" picture book to the printers. From the computer screen, it looks beautiful. I hope it'll be as nice when I receive the actual thing.

I wonder how digital photography will withstand the test of time. It's such a different medium than anything we've had before. The big difference is that people aren't printing their photos very much anymore. Jim and I have a goal of printing out a "yearbook" every year - a bound book with all our photos from the year. It should be a much more efficient way to print out our photos. But I wonder how that will be later. What if we want to pull out one photo from an album to show someone? What if there's one photo that I take a liking to later, and want to print out a copy, or even an enlargement to frame? I guess I'm in luck if I can still find the digital file. But will we still keep all our digital files for years and years?

Think about it. How many old photo negatives do you have? (I actually have quite a few, including some from about 100 years ago, but that's another story). I worry that it will be burdensome to save all the files over time, because it's a technology, not a photograph that you can hold in your hand. Technology gets old. Will these files stand the test of time, or will we have to keep transferring them into the next technology, sort of like those old films and videos from our childhood? I keep meaning to get our wedding video transferred onto DVD, but it's such a hassle. Will that be the same for our digital photos?

I have photos from 130 years ago. They have lasted this long. Some of them are printed on tin and are thus pretty scratched. Most are faded, and I don't know who everyone is in all of them. But they made it. Sure, I've scanned in all those photos so they'll "survive" in the new medium too. It's much easier to share them that way too. But I wonder if in the end, those hard copy photos will outlast digital too. They've outlasted slides and video and every other technology.

I guess the answer is to be sure to print out those photos, even if it's just in book form. Embrace the new technology, but be a little wary of it too. And I'll probably keep a little photo album of a few hard-copy photos too, just my favorite ones, so that maybe someone else will be looking at them in 130 years.

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