We have squirrels galore here in my part of the country. In fact, just yesterday I watched from my kitchen window as a squirrel straddled two nearby trees and nimbly chewed a tasty morsel. Made me think of this week’s power failure that took down the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for several hours. Why? Because those adorable fluffy tailed rodents have been the culprits responsible for two previous power failures of the NYSE. They were not blamed for this most recent failure, as I understand it, but the interruption to trading made me stop and think about something I constantly encourage my clients and friends to do–make prints of your precious digital images.
Some of you I know are asking: “What’s the New York Stock Exchange take down got to do with my pictures?” I’ll explain.
As I tell all my clients and friends, digital images are in no way of the imagination a permanent record. Many things can happen to them that can cause them to vanish–pouf!–in the blink of a computer screen. Your computer’s hard drive can, and eventually will, fail. So will your external hard drives (happened to me just this fall). The CDs on which you my burn your images (and documents) will not work on computers in the future, many don’t already–again personal experience. Flash drives are great but try finding your images when you need them. Cloud storage you say? Ah, yes, not fail-proof either although probably better than the heretofore mentioned storage systems. But I know of at least one professional photographer who lost all his stored images when the ‘cloud’ storage company he was using closed its ‘doors’.
Don’t take my word for it. In an address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, Vint Cerf told the audience that we’re may be heading towards a “forgotten generation or even a forgotten century,’ according to Professional Photographer Magazine‘s June issue. As Cerf said: “When you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives that is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, and all of the World Wide Web, it’s clear that we stand to lose an awful lot of our history.”
Cerf knows whereof he speaks. A Vice President of Google, he’s regarded as one of the founders of the Internet. Cerf warns of a possible Digital Dark Ages where the digital photos, documents, e-mails that we store today on our computers or on the cloud, will not be retrievable to you because the bits on which they were written can no longer be read by current technology. Cerf has proposed an idea that would ‘capture the digital environment in which those bits were created’ so that they can be recreated and reproduced in the distant future. He calls this ‘digital vellum.’
But another solution is for people to actually print out the images or documents that hold the most meaning for them. I am an advocate for printed photographs, as is the Professional Photographers of America, the professional association to which I belong . As the PPA’s director of publication, Jane Gaboury puts it: “…prints are the only way to ensure a pictorial history for generations of our families as well as for society.”
This has become especially close to home for me during the past year as I have sifted through the many photographs handed over to me from my mother and father’s collection of family photo albums. Without prints, I might not have this connection to my family’s past. The charming photo of my Dad as young toddler feeding the ducks on the farm might be forever gone. As might be those of my own childhood, or those of my sons. So when clients come to me for a professional family or senior portrait, I insist on creating prints for them, instead of or in addition to, digital images.
I often joke that what will happen to their images should one evening, the janitor who’s sweeping up in the Cloud office after everyone’s gone for the night, accidentally snags the cord and unplugs the mainframe? I never thought it could be something else, something as simple as say, as a squirrel.