The Power of Tangibility (A plea to print)

George and Sarah Bennett, c. 1870s

In the last few years, I've become the family archivist, rescuing and restoring old photographs, negatives, and even some tintypes, such as the one here of my Great-Great-Great Grandparents from the 1870s.

The ability to hold a photo more than 100 years old is a powerful thing, and it has had me wondering about the future of the medium and the archival aspects of digital photography. Just a disclaimer, this is not going to be a film vs. digital debate. I shoot in both mediums, and choose whichever works better for the situation I'm in. But I do worry about the archival qualities of the digital world of 1's and 0's floating around in cyber-land. The "Cloud" is a wonderful, albeit, scary concept to me. Family photo albums have transformed from prints in plastic-sleeve-fille binders on the coffee table to online slideshows on Facebook and flickr. That's great because people don't have to come to your house to see all your preserved memories, but those photos never physically exist. Unless you make prints and put them in an actual album.

If all your family photos exist only on the memory card in your camera or phone memory, or somewhere in the cloud, it's only a matter of time before you lose them. I've had hard drives crash on me and I lost a lot of photos I never made tangible copies of. So, consider this a plea to make a run to Walgreens, RiteAid, or wherever and make some good old fashioned prints to put in a shoebox for your descendants. It's great that your Grandma can now run through all the kids' photos on her iPhone instead of the 4-foot long wallet sleeve, but it's still important to make prints. Who knows if people will even be able to read a .jpg file in 100 years. Perhaps some distant descendant will find a shoebox of prints you made from your Instagram feed. They might seem quaint by that point, but it will always be fun to hold actual prints.

Thanks for reading, I'll be trying to keep more regular on the blog posts, so stop by now and then.