A post of many questions

Something a little different this week.  I have some guest photography along with many questions and some information about our photographs and the future.

Cherry blossoms, moon and Mt. Fuji
Cherry blossoms, moon and Mt. Fuji, photo by Edward V. Rosack

Why do you make photographs?

Is it because you see something (interesting, beautiful, unusual, …) and would like to share it with others?

Are you documenting memories so that you can revisit them later?

Are you using the camera as a tool to let you see something you couldn’t see or didn’t notice at the time?

Will your photographs be lost to you or others in the future?

What steps are you taking to make sure they survive?  Do you backup?  In multiple places? Online?  Outside your house?

Are your photos safe from:

  • Equipment failure?  If you Google “Hard Disk MTBF” you’ll find hard drive failure rate predictions are between 1% and 14% a year.  And this doesn’t count bit errors that can corrupt single files. And then get copied to all of your backups.
  • Media failure?  DVD lifespan is predicted to be anywhere from 2 to more than 100  years.
  • Technology obsolescence? Have you tried reading data from a Floppy disc lately?  How many years into the future will we still be able to read CDs?
  • Natural disasters?  How many people in New Orleans were able to take their photos to safety during Hurricane Katrina?
  • Getting hidden in the shear overwhelming number of photos that are made every day?  4,974 photos were uploaded to Flickr in one minute before I wrote this sentence.  What about all of the rest of the photo sharing sites?  How about the ones that weren’t uploaded?  How will someone (even if they’re interested and trying hard) find your photos among the incredible (and increasing) number that exist now?
Pacific Island
Pacific Island, photo by Edward V. Rosack

Do your photographs stand alone?

What will people think of them when you aren’t around to explain them and provide some background?  Will they even think of them?

Will people look at your photos after you’re gone and wonder where and when they were made and who the people in them are?  Will they even know who the photographer was?

The gang at Shuri Castle in Okinawa, Japan; photographer unknown
"The gang at Shuri Castle" in Okinawa, Japan; My uncle is 2nd from the left in the top row; photographer unknown.

Do your photos need words and information along side them so the viewer can understand them?

Do your photos have meta data associated with them?  Do you keyword and caption them? Is the EXIF data recorded by your camera and the IPTC data entered by you intact, or stripped away by one or more steps in your work flow?

Do you organize your photos into a meaningful folder structure to make them easier to find?

Do you rename them to something that makes sense?

Do you organize your photos using a proprietary program that may not exist in the future?

Conclusions and Credits

Ted Rosack, Macarello, Henley, On the wing of a German Aircraft after WW II; Photographer unknown.

The photographs in this post belonged to my uncle – Edward V. Rosack.  There’s very little information to go along with them.  I recognize my Dad and my Uncle, but none of the other people.  I can tell from the context more or less where they were made.  A few have short captions.  I imagine that to my uncle, these photographs were important because they are a record of people and scenes that had a large impact on him as he helped fight WW II.

They were made and printed more than 60 years ago and although they are not in very good shape they’ve lasted until today.   Will they last another 60 years?  Will any of yours or mine?

Badly damaged church, photo by Edward V. Rosack

There’s a lot to think about and do if you want your photos to last, and people to look at them and see and feel what you want them to see and feel.  If you don’t take steps to make them last, no one else is likely to do it for you.

Photographs ©1946, Edward V. Rosack and others.  Text ©2010, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved.

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