By Olivia Montes
Elm Staff Writer
Throughout the entire latter half of the 20th century, recording timeless events, from those belonging to historic national events to small town familial gatherings, was the foundation of preserving important memories long after the moment itself had passed.
Unfortunately, time has become the relentless enemy of the age-old, black and white photograph — and that timely foe refuses to back down.
“Film is a wonderful medium because it does not hide its encoded information from the naked eye,” The New York Times wrote in a 2013 series of self-help tips regarding effective preservation of the history behind the photograph frame.
“It is important to think about how those photographs will survive into the future,” The New York Times said.
While these photographs seem dated or old-fashioned, or even just taking up space, they do provide us with a visual history of our personal and public pasts. They re-introduce those who influenced our current moment to be remembered for ages to come.
However, because of the delicate nature of the photos themselves, as well as how antiquated they have become, we had to find another method to preserving those precious moments — and that is through the power of the digital world.
“One of the goals in creating a digital copy is to convey the photographer’s original intention,” blogger and photographer Matthew Minor wrote for the NYC Department of Records and Information Services in 2018. “It’s [this] picture with detail, contrast, color, tonality, sharpness, depth of field, and focus.”
But, like with any preservation process, this takes both time and effort to make this happen. Projects like these requires that individuals take the moment to sort their photos based on emotional value, organizing them based on the date in which the photo was taken, and then choosing a specific program to help effectively digitize photos into clear, restored, long-lasting pictures.
But it is also up to individuals themselves to figure out which method works for them.
“Your goals should be to identify, categorize, minimize and efficiently store your photos,” Nicole Anzia wrote for The Washington Post in 2018. “There is no ‘right’ way to categorize or organize your pictures — go with whatever makes the most sense to you.”
But, most important to remember, is to keep the old photos. While having a solid digital copy on hand is always a plus, it’s important to hold onto the photogenic memories that made this new memory album possible.
“If you can manage, always keep the originals — do not discard them after you digitize them,” The New York Times wrote. “[When] stored in appropriate housing, photographic materials can last a very long time.”
But another important idea to remember is that, while we are not the ones taking those photos, we are in fact restoring something even more beautiful: the memories behind those flimsy pieces of paper — feelings of love and sorrow, tears of uncontrollable laughter and sadness — and the rush of pure joy running through our veins.
“On the front end a digital photograph is visual,” Minor said. “On the back end, it’s a huge packet of information — it’s three channels, millions of pixels, and a precise value for each.”