Actually, I’m not referring to the type of print (no pun intended) that Egon was talking about. I’m referring to the vast quantities of memories that will never be enjoyed by future generations because they are forever lost, collecting digital dust on computer hard drives and phones, which will some day expire. In today’s digital world, we simply don’t print our images often enough. I’m sure many people back-up their photos to external drives, thinking they’ll be around forever. But there’s a popular saying about hard drives in the photography world: There’s two kinds of hard drives – broken ones, and ones that will break. It’s only a matter of time. This is why professional photographers go to great lengths to back up their photos to multiple sources in different physical locations. But that’s beside the point. Digital files are easily lost and forgotten about, and so are the memories that they embody.
I’m raising this point because I was searching through my archives to find some web-worthy images I may have overlooked, and came across a few folders of photos I had taken at family events. I had completely forgot about them. The air show, county fair, picnics, holidays, etc. I started wondering what would become of these images if I didn’t ever get around to printing them. Would the drives be put on a shelf or in a box and forgotten about for the next 25 years? Would they still work in 25 years? Would my grandchildren ever have the opportunity to see their dad when he was just a little boy, or their grandparents before they were old and wrinkly? The prospect of this lost history is disturbing to me.
I’m in the process of restoring my grandparents’ wedding album for my mom. The 8×10 photos are perfect, but the album mats are shot. These simple pieces of old photo paper have outlasted every other investment my grandparents ever made…cars, houses, pets, even themselves. I know my grandfather, but only through this album. It is one of my mother’s most cherished possessions. I wonder what would have happened if my grandparents just purchased negatives (or a CD in today’s terms), and been done with it. Chances are, they wouldn’t have gotten around to printing an album, and the memory of their wedding day would be lost forever.
Photography permanently freezes moments in time. It answers the questions: Who are you? Where did you come from? Where did you go? What was it like? Who do you love? and so on. These answers aren’t dispensable or disposable. Photographs are treasures to be valued.
From this point forward, I’m going to make a commitment to myself and my family, present and future, to preserve all our memories in print. I believe it’s that important.
And if you don’t know who Egon is…