It’s 1993 and you just broke the seal on a shiny new package of floppy discs. You slide the epitome of technological advance into the computer and hear the familiar hum of the hard drive roaring to life. You highlight your chosen files, confidently select save to disk and sit and wait as the unmistakable clickity-clack of the disc drive assures you that your important files will be safely preserved for posterity.
Fast forward to 2015 and as you clean out the long neglected junk drawer you uncover that precious disc. Should you be lucky enough to even find a computer still capable of utilizing such an antiquated format then there is still the nagging question of whether or not the disc is even still readable. The technology you thought was keeping your irreplaceable data safe and sound has only served to entomb it – held forever within the confines of the plastic shell never to be retrieved.
Now hop in your DeLorean and travel back in time to the early 1900s. Not a computer, hard drive or floppy disc in sight. If one wants to save important information for future generations then it must be put into print. Pen to paper, ink to page, emulsion to fibers – all of history was recorded by what would now be considered primitive means. However, travel back once again to modern day and where are those historic records? Some are displayed, some are tucked away , but with a little effort they are accessible and readable, even today. No equipment needed, no technology to fail, just good ol’ paper that has stood the test of time for generation upon generation.
So what is the moral of this story? The pictures that you thought would be fine sitting on that disc or USB drive might not be as secure as you once thought. Because we live in such a technologically advanced day and age we tend to let our archival guard down and assume that our precious memories will be there when we are ready. A printed picture, on the other hand, will be there for you to admire today or a hundred years from today. In our pursuit of ever changing technologies we have devalued the photographic print.
The power of the print is more than just its archival qualities. The pictures displayed in our homes tell our story to those who visit. As we pass by the slices of life frozen in time on a daily basis, our photographs keep our memories sharp, hitting that refresh button taking us right back to the moment of capture. Who hasn’t seen a baby’s eyes light up as he or she points to the recognizable figure adorning the wall?
There is definitely value in a digital copy – I will always provide that for my clients. However, I fear I have done those very same clients a great disservice by not also stressing the importance of taking the next step and having prints made. It could be a single image framed on the wall or a series of pictures bound in a book. However you choose to do it the important thing is that you get those pictures into a real, tangible, enjoyable format. I know the task can seem daunting and in the business of life it is not often high on the to-do list, but perhaps it’s time we prioritize a little differently. Far into the future when we are living like the Jetsons in cities in the clouds and eating our meals in pill form our silly little CD or USB drive will be a thing of the past and the printed pictures may be all we have.