In honor of
Robert Crumb & Justin ‘Binky Brown’ Green
From the Large Format forum…
- Bill1856 wrote:
The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years!
They’re everywhere. In your phone, on your tablet, you have your point-n-shoot, and maybe even a DSLR. A few might even own a film camera. You can’t escape the selfies, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. People are deluged with photographs. And today, people are taking more pictures than ever before. It’s been estimated that in the past 5 years, more photos have been taken than all the prior years combined.
The sad part is that few of these photographs will survive beyond a year. To many people, a “picture” is only good for the moment. Moms and Dads want to snap every little movement of that new baby. Grandma wants to see everyone one of those too. When you want to show off the new puppy, you pull out the phone. And in a week, none of them have any real meaning and might even get “deleted” just to make room for more pictures that have little meaning as well inside of a couple of weeks.
So what will become of all the pictures that are being taken today? Here is the reason that 99% of the photographs being taken today are soon going to be totally gone – digital images are no longer important enough to most people to actually keep them in printed form!
Yes, I started in a film only world. We bought a roll of film and took our vacation photographs. We had them developed and printed. They were put in photo albums or photo boxes. We looked at them and cherished those memories with great care. They were a slice of our life and for many, if disaster struck, those photographs were the one thing we would try to find first. Wedding albums and photographs represented our LIFE and we salvaged all we could.
It is estimated and less that 1 out of 100,000 photographs taken today actually ends up being a printed photograph. The digital world means you can look at those on some computer screen and without one, you have nothing. You probably have countless pictures that are just randomly stored and has no organization or way to locate them. Perhaps you have made some effort, but even that can seem overwhelming a task when you decide to tackle the task.
Add to this, over the years, the technology has changed so fast, that many photographs taken 6-7 years ago are stored on a type of media that is no longer supported. I have boxes of floppy discs and not even a computer that works to view them. In 5 years or less, your DVD is going to be obsolete as will your USB drives. File types are going to change as well. And the technology of tomorrow may not support these “older” file types.
Many today have older cell phones with countless pictures on them. Maybe you “shared” some on Facebook or Instagram or uploaded to your photo storage website. But none of these are “permanent” solutions to viewing your photos and sadly, many of your memories you captured today, aren’t going to be around tomorrow. So where is that old cellphone today? In a drawer someplace, your not sure where, but you know it’s around here somewhere!
There are also countless memory cards filled with photographs. Each of those represent a small slice of you or something that was a part of your life. Some are older and you have fewer options to view them as technology simply outpaces their usefulness. Does anyone remember the 256mb SD cards when today, a 4 gb is considered tiny?
Perhaps you go to a Professional Photographer and all you want is someone to “take some pictures and give us the disc”. After all, it IS a “digital world” and it shouldn’t cost you very much. You can “take them down to the 1 hr place” and get prints really cheap. No film. No prints from the lab needed to “see” them. So where are your discs today? Probably in that same drawer you haven’t found yet where that old cell phone is “lost” in. I doubt you have your DVD’s or old floppies on your wall! And when Mom asks if you have that adorable photo of your now 16 year old son or daughter- you know the one when they were 2- and you have to answer, I do, but I have to find it. “It’s on a diskŠsomeplaceŠI thinkŠ.maybe we still doŠhoney, where did we put that disk again?”.
In my home, you will find photographs. Real, honest to goodness prints. Nothing fancy in most cases and most are just plain snapshots of family at holidays, on vacation, or doing something silly or even important. These are the slices of our lives where we can open the old “self sticking” album and find out it no longer sticks. Where memories of our life unfolds before our eyes. We laugh. We cry. We tease each other. Our life is right there. It’s in that printed image that anyone can see. There is no wondering “if this file type is still supported” or does my “machine still have a DVD drive”. None of that is needed. Even the older, not quite as sharp as they used to be eyes can see them and feel the emotions of that instant in time as if it happened yesterday. These are the things we protect with everything we have should some disaster strike and the ones we start looking for first if it does. All of a sudden that $250 DeLonghi Coffee maker isn’t all that important. Nor is the fishing boat. Or the 72″ big screen TV with all the bells and whistles. It’s always the memories of our lives that become the thing we search for first.
So if you are part of this “digital revolution”, let me ask you- where are YOUR photographs? Stuck on some disc or stored out there is cyberspace someplace, hopefully, perhaps? Why didn’t you actually purchase that $500 canvas to display in your home that your Professional photographer worked so hard to produce for you? That was a “one of a kind” work of ART and an heirloom piece for your family to have and remember that little slice of their life. It is something that will be passed from generation to generation and the only visual way your heirs will see what you looked like and the love and emotions you expressed the instant that image was captured.
2025. You just found that DVD you had in that drawer you couldn’t remember which one it was. Along with 9 old cell phones that no longer will work with today’s new technology. Your 3 inch by 3 inch cube computer no longer has a DVD drive since in 2015 they were totally phased out. Your 3rd grandchild is sitting on your knee and asks to see pictures of their Mom- and all you have to show them is this piece of round plastic that is pretty much worthless. Not to mention dusty and scratched from all those old cellphones moving around every time you opened that drawer. And since Instagram had been merged with another company, and they started charging, you let that go 8 years ago.
I guess that makes you one of the “most photographed generation that doesn’t have a photograph in 10 years”. I guess it wasn’t that important then. Digital was cheap.
Cameras were everywhere. It just didn’t seem that important.
Lost memories are expensive.
Infrared flash photo – Pucker up! (Candid) Hollywood Blvd street selfie 2015
from Piercing Darkness artists’ book.*
*Piercing Darkness (infrared flash photography) along with my project The Americans…60 years after Frank are under joint consideration for a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Well, Wilhelm makes a lot of valid points. Once a person loses their digital memories they may give their preservation more thought. I’ve lost over 2 decades of my photos and related artwork. But it was due to a flood and not digital impermanence.
What follows is taken in part from the chapter on Dye Stability Tests for Color Imaging Media from Volume 12 – Chapter 3 of the Encyclopedia of Photographic and Fine Art Ink Jet Printing Media by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
Homage to Weegee – Cigarette Caught in Mid Flight ~ Hollywood, CA 1974
The image pictured above is from a scan of an 8 x 10 work print made in 1974 that was supposed to be trashed. The work print escaped the trash can by mistake and somehow survived 38 years hidden from sight as a bookmark.
The original negative to the image as well as any final silver gelatin prints I had made were all lost in a flood. So the work print was all I had to work with to recover the image.
When I found the work print I was able to get a usable digital image from scanning it and some Lightroom adjustments. But the original work print was of poor quality and had mottled shadows and blacks….that was why is was headed for the trash can.
Many digital photographers I talk with tell me they seldom make prints. They just view their work on the monitor or on digital photo frames. This ‘no prints required’ method is one of the benefits digital photography can provide us.
But, this benefit would also work against the digital photographer if they would ever lose their digital masters. The lack of a physical negative / chrome is one of the shortcomings of digital imaging when it comes to preservation. But, we can come close to the benefit of film with a 4 x 6 (or optimally a letter size) master print.
With a high grade scan of our master print we can always recover 90% of the original image if we would ever lose our digital or film master. The master print for the digital photographer is what the physical negative is for the film photographer.
Here are a few of my photos that were lost in the flood. The only reason I can show you these is that I had some small 2 x 4 to 3.5 x 5 inch snapshot prints of them stored at my mom’s house. I was able to recover something with a scan of the prints.
When scans are done correctly, they can yield excellent results.
The above photos show a scan of an original Eastman Kodak dye transfer print. I then made a second generation inkjet print from the scan of the dye transfer print.
I married the original dye transfer print and the second generation inkjet print and scanned them to show comparison results. I didn’t use a high priced scanner or printer to do the tests. I used a consumer model Canon printer from Wal-Mart costing about $80 and a $200 Epson scanner.
Now, no scan is as good as the original. But, you can see for yourself, it is hard to tell which is the original dye transfer scan and which is the scan of inkjet copy print made from the dye transfer print.
Top Photograph – Dye Transfer original is on the bottom half.
Bottom Photograph – Dye Transfer original print is on the right side.
This test tells us 2 things:
1) Scans can recover about 90% of the image quality from an original.
2) Inkjet printers can equal or surpass Eastman Kodak’s dye transfer process when it comes to image quality. (In addition, dye stability tests I’ve run show pigmented inkjet prints will outlast an Eastman Kodak dye transfer print when it comes to dye stability by leaps and bounds.)
For the dye stability tests photos in this post, I cut or masked the media in half. One half of the media was put in sunlight for 6 months. The other half was stored in total darkness. After 6 months of sun, the 2 halves were married and scanned. The half exposed to the sun was marked with an ‘S’. The half stored in the dark was marked with a ‘D’.
Test results show Eastman Kodak’s dye transfer prints to have very poor dye stability when exposed to light. But they do have good dark storage dye stability. The oldest know dye transfer I’ve come across is about 80 years old and still looked good. But when it comes to dye stability, the king is the pigmented ink jet and laser print, possibly surpassed only by the old Cibachrome prints.
Dye transfer prints shown are by: Dean Child, US Color Print Portland, OR
Below is a metal print on aluminum, something that is very popular nowadays. The sky faded a good deal after 6 month of sun.
Below is an Epson inkjet print exposed to 1 year of sun with no noticeable fading. I use a lot of gloss optimizer in my printing and wondered about its archival characteristics. I decided on giving Epson’s gloss optimizer a 1 year stress test.
Here is a quick shot of the test results with my P&S Sony.
After the 1 year test period was over I married the 2 halves for comparison. The black lines show the edges where the gloss optimizer extends. One year of sun produced no change to the gloss optimizer that could be seen with the eye. The results area also a testimony to Epson’s pigment based ink.
Here is the original digital file.
The point of fade testing is to show you that different media has different dye stability. So choose a media that is fade resistance for your master prints.