Storing Digital Photos – Part 1

My parents have a desk in the front foyer of their home. It’s a big wooden two level vintage 1950 thing about eight feet long and five high. It has a fold-down writing surface that hides lots of cubby holes when it is closed. There are lots of roomy drawers for storing everything from my father’s business records to packs of playing cards to phone books. Not much there to interest a kid on a rainy day except – down at the bottom behind a couple of sliding doors in some battered, worn and torn shoe boxes – the family photos!

I remember many times when I was a kid, pawing through the miriad of images of friends and relatives (some known and some unknown) detailing historic family events. They are still there. Fifty or sixty years worth of our lives depicted – sometimes they go further back when pics from Grandma’s hoard get inherited. Some are black and white, some are color, some are faded, some are yellowing, some are torn from rough kid handling. Some have the negatives with them, but many got separated over the years and may never reunite.

We don’t have such a thing at my house. Sure we have the odd stash of photo envelopes here and there, but nothing substantial. Since my son was born four years or so ago, we have been taking digital photos. Most of our family history is hiding on a computer hard drive somewhere. Although we could pull them up at any time, it is really a case of “out of sight, out of mind”. There isn’t the chance to just run across the pics while looking for a take out restaurant menu. You can’t haul them out and spread them all over the dining room table or on the living room floor and let your eyes flit from image to image in a “random” sort of way making intuitive connections based on a part of a face sticking out of the pile here and a favorite pet tail there.

I really miss that kind of thing and I think as time goes by, so my son will miss out on a chance to connect with the family (however insignificant in the grand scheme of things) history. I can tell him stories of relatives past and present, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m not a real talkative guy.

Technology is a great thing and as a digital photographer and professional computer geek, I’m generally all for using gizmos. However, I think people are at their core analog creatures and not digital. Organizing things in neat little electronic folders by date and subject is all very nice and no doubt essential in some situations, but I think the human mind is naturally more “free form” than that and certainly the human imagination is not so cut and dried. People think and dream – computers merely compute.

So I think it is time to buy a pack of photo paper and bust out the printer. We need to stop just looking over the pictures we take and then saving them off to a disk as cold cruel one and zeros. We need to make a bunch of real live touch-able hold-able shuffle-able prints and stuff them into as old and beat up a shoe box as we can find and we need to squirrel that box (or boxes depending on your age and how itchy your shutter finger is) away in some drawer that doesn’t get opened too often – just every once in a while especially on rainy days.

MDW

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