Not too long ago, there was news about 23 unpublished photographs of the Rolling Stones found in a small street market. After Vivian Maier, something like this no longer surprises us. What it would be surprising is that someone made a similar discovery in sixty years.
Digital photography has brought many benefits but also not few drawbacks, the biggest of which is the loss of physical pictures. We have lots of information, lots of data but we do not have them anywhere. Yeah, well, they are on a hard drive, but what will happen if it breaks? We have them in another place. Or ten even. I do not want to sound paranoid, what about communication between these and the computer?
A few years ago, not many, we relied on floppy disks, then CDs. However, it is virtually impossible to read these floppy disks nowadays and fewer computers come with CD players. The only way to combat this is to systematically convert data from one file system to another. Does anyone guarantee that in a few years computers won’t lack USB ports?
The cloud does not solve the whole thing. Who says that the company is responsible for ensuring our data will be there forever? On the other hand, will your be able to recognize that data? Maybe in a few years we will find something better than RAW and it slowly become unneeded. There may be some program to convert our old NEF, ORF, RW2 or whatever to a new format, but it’s still the same: things change.
These may be merely delusions of a defender of chemical photography, but what is certain is that physical pictures are slowly becoming a thing of the past. I doubt that within sixty years a photographer will be able to find and old picture of his grandfather (on an old external hard drive from 2010?).
Is there any way to fight this? Here’s a fact: the last family photo album in my house is from 2005. Coincidentally, the last year we used a “real” camera because we used digital cameras ever since.
The negatives have proven to be a wonderful file system. Not all of us can say no to digital cameras, but those who do not want to go through the dark room should at least print the photos because a family album is preferable, even if it’s ugly and stale, than a bunch of files in your computer.
After all, is this not one of the reasons why we take pictures? To preserve memories of our life? What good are they if they disappear? Despite any technological innovation, it’s still much nicer to show photos of the holidays by taking them out of our pocket than opening a file in a computer.