Saturday, February 18, 2012

For the Long Haul

You've all heard me go on and on (probably too much) about history and how seriously I take the fact that I'm preserving a family's history when I photograph them. I take it as an equally serious responsibility to preserve the photographs that we've taken here at Conway Photo as carefully as I can. I was reminded of this responsibility this week when one of my customers picked up a photo she had ordered from a sitting that had been done several years ago. This lady told me that her son didn't think it would be possible to replace this missing photo because surely we didn't keep our negatives and files that long. She told him that she knew Mr. Hedspeth and she knew better and, sure enough, we replaced her photo. In fact, this week alone I've had photos printed from negatives from a wedding in 1989 as well as this photo of Murfreesboro Baptist Church that was taken in 1991. You can tell a little about the age of this photo by just driving by the church now and seeing how the crepe myrtle trees have grown.

I felt like writing about this simply to say that it is important to me and everyone who has ever worked here to safeguard your past. We have negatives files back to 1947 and I've kept triple backups of all digital files since I switched to digital several years ago. I'm also devoting a great degree of serious consideration to what will happen to these hundreds of thousands of negatives and files when I one day close my doors. I'm not ready by any means to retire yet but I want to plan ahead for that event because I want to find some way to make this treasure trove of local history available to my customers who might want them. Figuring out how to do this is in my 10 year plan right now.

All this being said, I hope you'll let my inner, lecturing schoolteacher come out and share a lesson here. Whether your old negatives and digital files are with a photographer somewhere or in your home, pay attention to how they are being safeguarded. You never know what you or future generations in your family will want from them. We try to be careful here and (knock wood) have survived two fires in the studio through the years and have lost very few negatives. And, if you take lots of photos yourself as many of you do now, do two things for me. Store your negatives carefully and, if you are digital -- BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP your files and store at least one copy of your backup files somewhere else. And, for the sake of future generations who will be faced with a cardboard box of photos and have no idea who that bald baby is in the photo, write on the back of the photo a name and year to identify it.

Sorry for the sermon. I know everyone takes their own job seriously and has a cautionary tale and this is mine.


Beth (Stephenson) Pelter) said...

Love everything you said! And glad to know my baby and wedding pictures are still safeguarded with you!

Melissa said...

The archivist in me loves this post! Melissa M.