During the pandemic, I decided to rummage through my basement and undertook the purging process like so many other people. I came across a dozen or so photo albums from many years ago and started to browse the pages. The memories began to flow as I flipped page after page. I suddenly realized all my photographs from the last 25 years are digital, and have never made it into albums.
As convenient as computers, phones, and tablets are, if they fail, everything on them fails as well. I could conceivably no longer have the history of my life to pass on to other generations.
Keeping pictures on the Cloud is great, but if your password is lost or you do not renew your subscription, all that info will disappear. I recently heard of a virtual storage company shutting down and giving all its customers 24 hours to download their files.
As a photographer, this is concerning, as I have about 500 photographs which I consider to be my best of the best. Sure I print them and sell them, but as far as legacy goes, they will probably disappear when I do, unless my survivors are able to download them from my computer.
I have taken well over 250,000 photographs in my life and have always had a top 500 group. I consider these my best, and if I want to add one to the group, I force myself to delete one in its place.
Losing those files would be devastating, so I decided to undertake a project to ensure these photos stay around longer than I will.
I wanted to create a catalogue, which at first seemed a simple task. Not the case. Yes, I have all the files and have always maintained them in a secure place with many backups, so finding the pictures was quite easy.
My first step was to resize them to fit into the catalogue. This was a task which took several months. I decided to create an index based on subject matter, which took another month, and finally, I had everything ready to put together.
Fortunately, the task took less time than I anticipated, and I have just completed my 200 page catalogue and sent it off to the printer.
I am also excited because the catalogue is available on Amazon. I do not expect anyone to purchase it, as it is only a reference for people who may want to access some of my photos; but more important to me, it is a permanent history of my work. Best of all, if the catalogue gets destroyed, it will always be online, providing Amazon does not go out of business.
I feel great at my accomplishment and no longer have to worry about archiving my photos.
Give some thought to how you store your images, and make sure your treasured memories will be there for future generations to enjoy.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.