Taking control of boxfuls of photographs
I like taking photos. I’m not going to pretend I’m any good at it. I’ve just always figured that if I take a lot of pictures, I’ll luck into a good one or two.
For a time, I was very interested in black-and-white photography. I started buying bulk film, loading canisters myself, developing it and making prints. I loved that: I could spend an entire evening in my improvised darkroom on one print.
I also shot a lot of color film. Heck, I shot slides, too. Back when you had to take a roll of film in and have it developed, this created a storage problem for me.
A couple summers ago, I finally confronted boxes of photos and negatives. I decided I would start scanning all my pictures, and figured the way to make it a less daunting task was to set the goal of scanning one envelope of pictures a day.
One of the benefits of doing this is that you get to see pictures you haven’t seen in a while.
In my case, especially when I was shooting black-and-white film, I would develop it, make a contact sheet – an 8 by 10 of all the images on a roll of film – and pick a photo to print, then focus on that. I might not ever look again at the other negatives from that roll.
One of my favorites is from a day at my parents’ home, when my sister brought her new puppy to a family gathering. My sons and one of my nieces played with the dog on a bench in the yard. I remember waiting for the photo, and I was pretty happy when I developed the film and saw this image. But until I started scanning, I hadn’t looked at the rest of the film in all these years. I shot a whole roll, after all.
It’s one of the benefits of digital photography that I can look at these pictures much more easily now. I can share them.
It took some time, but I wound up scanning more than one envelope at a time, and so I suppose in a month of evenings, I was finished. (Well, except that I’ve backed up this archive on three different external hard drives.)
There is a little voice deep inside of me that worries about going all-digital with photography. What if, 20 years from now, the .jpg goes the way of the floppy disk? I don’t see that happening; too many photos already in existence, too many companies offering online storage and printing. But you never know. I’m not going to lose any sleep over the possibility, but I saved all my black-and-white negatives. They don’t take up much room.
And heck, some day I might set up a darkroom again.
Next: A new use for the scanner.