Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


The New Photography…

A few days ago, I was looking through a large cabinet in my lab where I keep all my optical equipment.  Several shelves are full of 35-mm and 120-film format cameras.  They are all in near perfect condition and there are lenses of all focal lengths to go with them.  How sad to see all this meticulously constructed and carefully maintained precision equipment simply taking up space.  I think that one of these days I may return to taking photographs using film as the capture medium.  But am I being realistic or is this just wishful thinking?  I also have a complete darkroom with a wet-sink and all the chemicals for enlarging and printing photographs at least as large as 20 x 24 inches.  Is it likely that I will get back to doing darkroom work?  I look around wistfully at this ready-to-use facility and wonder if it isn’t time to just let it all go.  How sad it would be to take it all to the dump.

The conversion from film photography to digital is now nearly complete.   I do hope, however, that there will still be enough remaining interest in film photography that one or a few specialty manufacturers will be able to sustain at least some minimal production facilities. 

However, there seems to be more to this conversion from film to digital than just what we see in the cameras themselves.  For well over a hundred years, we took photographs, had the films developed, and had pictures printed for viewing and careful placement in albums as memories of our earlier lives.  Not only were the photographs put away for future viewing but the film was also retained and could be used later for creating additional photographs. 

I still have black and white negatives, and the photographs that go with them, that were taken of my parents when they were children over one hundred years ago.  They are in the same excellent condition as the day they were made.  They are precious memories that I can review whenever I wish to do so.  Will the same be true for digital photographs?  Are we even thinking about such possibilities? 

Not only are we living in a world where storage media are changing every few years, but we have added a new societal behavior that did not exist with film photography; namely the ability to transmit these digital images instantly to anyone anywhere in the world.  Thus, photography is no longer just the act of capturing images.  It now includes electronically communicating those images to our friends, family, or colleagues.  We no longer just take photographs to have a visual record of our more interesting activities.  We now take photographs so that we can instantly communicate about our activities to others.  Storage and retention of these memories becomes a secondary consideration – or maybe no consideration at all. 

How will we look back at our past activities in future years?  Will we remember to update our digital records as each generation of storage media reaches obsolescence?  Or will we simply loose the records of our earlier activities?  And if we are so caught up in the moment of capturing and communicating our activities to our friends and family members, will we remember to store these images for future enjoyment?  In today’s world of social media, there seems to be little – if any – attention being paid to long-term or archival storage.  The push is for us to put all of our information on “the cloud”.  But what happens if the company managing such a “cloud” goes out of business or simply chooses to no longer offer the service?  It would indeed be sad to have a world where the record of past events is lost and perhaps only exists in the memories of the older generation. 

Does this sound like I am being a bit extreme?  I hope so.  On the other hand, I don’t see or read much about what we should do to keep digital records that don’t depend on the latest generation of computers and the storage devices that are built into those computers.  Do any of you still have a computer that can read a 6-inch floppy disk?  The best I’ve been able to do is to retain a couple of PCs that can read 3 ½ inch floppies.  Even the term “floppy” now sounds obsolete. 

Of course in our day-to-day lives we don’t think so much about what may happen in twenty, thirty, or fifty years.  But that future will be upon us sooner than perhaps we may wish.  And it would be very sad to live in that future without the ability to refresh our memories with images from our past. 

I would be interested to hear how, and if, you are managing the storage of your digital photographic memories.  You can reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.      


19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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