Death of the Photo Album

Discussion in 'The Barracks' started by Spirit of Dunkirk, Jun 18, 2013.

  1. Having read about this in the metro newspaper yesterday it got me thinking and to be honest it made me feel quite sad.

    The advances in technology we see these days are without doubt fantastic but are we missing the point here and missing out?

    I suspect we are but I'd really appreciate some thoughts of other members on this because maybe I may be being an old stick in the mud?

    For me the importance of having a physical photo to refer back to and preserve is the only option. I already find myself a victim of technology whereby I have hundreds of photos stored on memory cards, portable hard drives and my laptop and it doesn't fill me with confidence. Every couple of months I review them and print off the ones I like so I have a physical record and I think that's the way it should be. Having lost a load of photos to a suddenly broken laptop a few years ago - my fault for not backing them up - I am now extra careful when it comes to looking after the photos that matter to me.

    But what about when I'm no longer here? Will my relatives have ready access to the photos that reflect my life? I think not and I think that's the issue here that modern society neglects. Hundreds of photos stored on various devices means two things. One, you never review them and preserve the ones that matter, two, how long before that storage device gives out and they're lost forever. Yes a photo fades over time but it's something real to be protected and looked after. Whether it be my great grandparents or my relatives who fought in the war I'm fortunate enough to have a number of photos of them that have been preserved and will continue to be passed down through the family. But as I look round my current family members I'm not so sure that will be the case for our legacy.

    Instant technology means people are taking more photos, the youth of today can take a photo and have it on their social network page in seconds. But where does that photo go then? In to the technological abyss lost forever most likely. Without doubt photos have become cheap and unappreciated. Taken for granted if you like.

    So if it is the death of the photo album and the physical photo I think many people are in for a short sharp shock in years to come.

    I also think people get lost in this arrogance that technology makes us better now than we were in the past. My counter to that is look at text messaging and social media and the negative impact it's having on the ability to communicate face to face, grasp basic English language and spelling etc.

    For those interested I've also put the link to my blog entry on this issue below. I look forward to your thoughts on this issue.

    Death of the Photo Album
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I always have our holiday photos printed off & put in album with tickets, postcards , drawings & that sort of thing.

    Don't print off many 'everyday' pics.
    Kids have albums with 'special day' pics printed off, such as birthdays , Christmas, school events etc

    There will be something left behind for future generations to see of what we got up to.
  3. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I think you are right Spirit. Everything is throw away, photos and music especially. If I got run over by a bus tomorrow, nobody in my family would think to look through my computer for photographs. Whereas, we have all sorted out a loved ones possessions at some point in our lives and if we came across a box of photos or an album, we might sit down and look through.

    In my research the one thing I always hope for when a new family get in touch is to receive a photo of the soldier in question. It makes the research real in my opinion.
  4. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I have albums, covering decades, from pre-digital times in various states of disintegration, the majority of their contents should've been chucked out but weren't due to sentimental reasons. There is even cine camera footage and video tapes somewhere. Add to that the dozens of boxes of slides accumulated by my grandparents, which I started to digitise yet never completed, the task being just too much for me. I doubt they'd be kept once I die.

    Sometimes it's just more convenient to crank up a digital slideshow with a click of a few buttons and gather round the screen, maybe add a soundtrack - the modern day more convenient equivalent of waiting impatiently for 40 mins while a relative sets up projector and screen, or passes round the albums from person to person, while waxing lyrical about annual summer holiday number 23. Only this time it's all over in a couple of minutes and there's nothing to pack away again either.

    I think with digital technology, albums have just morphed into photo books which anyone can create and order online. I agree with sorting the wheat from the chaff though.
  5. papiermache

    papiermache Well-Known Member

    Within the last two years we have inherited a lot of prints, negatives and sildes which need to be archived and shared. The flat bed scanner is the best way of copying to a computer so they can be distributed to the rest of the family, but rather time consuming. A dedicated film scanner would be the best way, but very expensive. Cheap versions which promise scanning in seconds are only cameras held in a box with a fixed distance to the negative or slide, with a clever way of reversing the negative to positive, which I have not tried.

    One quick way of getting an impression is to use the macro facility on my 5 year old 8 megapixel Lumix ( non SLR ). Just put the lens very close to a print and capture the figure or face of the subject, leaving most of the background or rest of the scene out of the "new" picture. This combines the advantage of digital cameras and the advantage of the print, being instantly accessible, once the packing box and envelope has been opened. The pictures are not exactly sharp but it does not matter. A slideshow of the collected shots brings back happy memories.

    I prefer negatives and prints above digital. Just no end in sight to the cardboard boxes full of memories.

    The modern trend in interior decoration is to make a home look like a combination of an office and an operating theatre, with scarcely a book in sight. Very definitely not for me.
  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Fascinating thread this, and I rush to make comment.

    If you hadn't sussed it out by now, I have to confess that I am the original "Belt & Braces" man.

    Duplication has never been for me, triplication is my minimum requirement in my perpetual search for peace of mind. Take my Army Album as a good example.

    Created in 1946 while stationed at Trieste and designed purely to hold all my Army photos and memorabilia, I brought it home to Civvie Street and after it had been shown to my family, friends and whoever else I could find, it was stored away, not to be looked at for years.

    Then, in the late 90s, computing entered my life and I saw a chance to give the Album a wider public.

    I scanned every photo and then every page and finally, looking for somewhere to keep the digital files I created a Blog which I titled, wait for it, "Ron's Actual Album". Ron Goldstein's Actual Army Album

    I made a copy of the album in an A4 binder and then donated the original to the Imperial War Museum.

    Eventually I created a Digital Album on Picasa, see attached, and finally copied every page into the Members Gallery of this forum

    Belt & Braces ?

    I rest my case :)


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017
    Sussex by the Sea likes this.
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    One shelf in our lounge is full of bulky photo albums created over the years since 1949 when we got married.

    These albums got progressively bigger, the largest ones is 16"x12"x2.25" (42cmx31cmx6cm)

    The earliest one is falling to pieces and contains some real gems of days long gone.

    Such as the price of a rail ticket from Newhaven to Dieppe, 1 shilling. i.e 5p !


    Attached Files:

  8. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Chap on the Radio several years ago was an academic with an interest in ephemera.
    He was talking about how ephemeral or otherwise 'useless', 'dull', or 'bad' photos can often contain fascinating details to the historian (whether in the background, or even just the clothes being worn), and how our easy deletion of such stuff now meant that they could already see the ephemeral sources drying up along with that deletion.
    I think he had a serious point to make.
    Eg. I have several photos of our house taken in the late C19th & early C20th - many are quite poor blurred shots of other things in which our place just happens to be in the background and in focus.

    One of the reasons I delete almost nothing as I empty the camera... and have an ongoing storage problem. :unsure:

    Our own infuriating data loss here on software transfer is a part of the 'handing down' issue.
    Electronic storage just can't yet compete with the incredible archival strength of Silver Halide on so many levels, and the archival nature of modern printing as claimed by the manufacturers seems to be being proven nonsense in many ways unless you're paying for current top-end systems.

    Mind you, photo albums are hardly 100% secure.
    Many of our own family ones have been savaged by a certain relative, with huge chunks missing...
  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I remember one relative who was a fairly decent photographer going for his prints: he'd only take the prime examples, though some of these would be enlarged or extra copies ordered. 1000s of images have been kept. Simply due to my crap camera skills, it is entirely necessary to delete, why keep eg 3 successive shots of the same landscape, esp if only 1 of them turned out halfway decent. Or the accidental shot of my feet, or inside of handbag. ;)

    I'd wanted to snap my image collection and show it in its various formats but I gave up retrieving it. I have 6 cupboards crammed with albums, boxes of orphaned prints, of slides, of negatives, of undeveloped film even !!, of tapes, and of discs, old cameras, with more in the garage. Some of it isn't just mine, it's been passed on either to me or my other half, being the designated archivists, but the majority of it will never really be looked at again. Factor this for each successive generation which inherits, and even allowing for some dumping rather than preservation, as well as splitting amongst offspring, this amounts to a cumulative problem for future generations in my family.

    (I too have photos of houses, current and previous, but just of them, most as they were being built - "for posterity". I also have an obsession with a particular tree across the road, and with the standard view from this one castle, both of which have been photographed many times over the years.)

    Like Ron I've scanned whole albums, as well as various family records : saved on drives, in external storage, on hosting site, and here. But if I'm honest and played the what-would-you-save-from-a-house-fire game, once everyone was accounted for I'd be desperately chucking said cupboards' contents out the window on to the lawn - there are also folders of paperwork: old passports, tickets, menus & brochures from places visited, certificates, baby scans and wristbands, first toys, shoes, & baby grows ... ... ephemera is such a nice word for other people's junk, but for me there's a very fine as yet undefined line between preserving for posterity and obsessive hoarding.

    Prints are just too much hassle to store/preserve and I wish I was brave enough to digitise every image and chuck the majority out.
  10. Interesting points and each to their own I say.

    Personally, I embrace technology and see it's worth but am also wise enough to realise that technology isn't always the best way. Technology can be a bad thing in my opinion - text messaging, computer games etc have killed the conversation skills and contribute greatly to obesity in the young who no longer spend the majority of their time playing out like I did growing up.

    However, back on topic I think many on here do what I do. Digitally stored images in two or three places, to prevent that sudden loss of everything if a system breaks. Then, regular review of my photos and prints of the ones I like so they can preserved properly for that day I do fall off the perch. Because I really don't think my relatives will be interested or consider searching through computers etc to look at thousands of photos.

    Of course, the above system works well and it's the best of both worlds but what I think's happening with the youth of today is they don't bother with the physical print at all. So all they actually have at best is digital storage of lots of photos. Or even worse, they post a photo on a social media outlet then it's gone in a few days. Lost forever.
  11. pierce09

    pierce09 Member

    i print off all my military photos of places i've been or served and this has proved to be a godsend as i too had a duff harddrive that means i lost about 4 years worth of pictures. luckily i have the physical photos and i've rescanned them to make sure i have a digital and hard copy!

    i do miss flicking through a good photo album. its not quite the same as looking through a photobucket account!!!

  12. It's my big concern going forward. Having lost a few hundred images on my old laptop a few years ago I have no faith in technology. Yes I have the portable hard drive, the laptop, a couple of memory sticks and I even store them on remote servers. Even with that I'm not confident.

    What about when the computers turn on us? If anyone's seen the terminator they'll know what I mean. At least when we're fighting back I'll have my physical photos of loved ones tucked in my wallet. All my colleagues who couldn't be bothered with printing theirs off will have to make do with the thoughts.

    I'm joking of course....
  13. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    It's amazing how the digital revolution has transformed our lives and continues to do so. I can't remember the last time I ordered prints. Fortunately print quality is much better now than in the past for mass produced snaps where anything that didn't fall in the middle range showed poorly. Still I don't want to collect the damn things in great quantity and this coming from someone who attempted in the past to print his own B&W sloshing about with chemicals.

    I recently digitized a number of my parent's old photo albums. It was a lot of work and in the process the photos once removed couldn't be returned to the original album. Many of them were in bad shape to begin with as a result of being mishandled and shuffled around. The cheap albums that use glue lines to affix photos to stiff backings with a clear cellophane (?) covering are the worse. Uugh! The glues used were often destructive to the photo and trying to remove the badly stuck without damage can be a time consuming process. Once finished I sent DVDs to various family members with the hope that a few among them would recognize its value and backup elsewhere. It's always surprising to me how a digital scan can bring out details that have been missed on viewing a faded original.

    Like most nowadays I have been flooded with hundreds of digitized pictures from family and friends over the years By contrast I have one picture each of my parents when children. The one of my Father is tiny and on the verge of splitting in two. To view it as a digital scan is a revelation.

    A photo album lovingly put together and well preserved is a beautiful thing. But like anything they can become lost or destroyed for one reason or another. I recently purchased a digitized album on the web of 6th Airborne men that as yet to be adequately identified. Photographic prints in one form or another will never die. People like beautiful objects and will pay a good buck for them. Out of curiosity I looked up the most expensive photo ever sold. It doesn't strike me as being particularly inspiring - but there you go ... :)

    Rhein II by Andreas Gursky,1999 - Wikipedia

    Regards ...
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  14. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Robert Burns: (the care of)

    [Burns wrote this reproof in a Shakspeare, which he found splendidly
    bound and gilt, but unread and worm-eaten, in a noble person's

    Through and through the inspir'd leaves,
    Ye maggots, make your windings;
    But oh! respect his lordship's taste,
    And spare his golden bindings.
  15. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    I started a project (oh Gawd, not another one...) years ago to try and gather all the old family pics, scan them in and spread them out amongst the family, and as always in such things I gave a lot more than I got back, but...

    I now have pics of five of my great grandparents, one of whom died in 1899, the most I have is of my 93 year old great grandfather who passed in 1953 (but non of his wife who I have yet to even trace the date of her death, but it was around WW1...

    My dad's parents married in '22 and in an old box of forgotten pics I found their wedding pose, fading away... My mum's parents married the same year, pic taken in almost exactly the same pose in the same room... it had been framed and allowed to be in indirect light but was poorly fixed... my gran's face is too far gone to recover and is just a ghost in the shot...

    My grandfather has a statue but it has no name and thousands of people pass it every day of the year in central London so it is almost as anonymous as the pic of his wedding in that box, maybe more so...

    I have literally hundreds of thousands of pictures scanned in and now work exclusively in digital, and as Adam noted, (almost) none get deleted... two summers back I took over a thousand pictures of the Calanais stones on Lewis at dawn for seven consecutive glorious days (yes, I am a nut job) and some are plainly and simply beautiful works of art, but how many of us have pics of their great-grandparents (or to gauge it, pics taken between 1900 and 1950) on their walls, or even in albums that are accessible to the family...?

    Age could be viewed as soon as you say "the kids of today just don't care..."

    In one hundred years from now how many of us will have left a mark on this world to be individually remembered to all but a handful of caring family members...?

    Right now the best we can hope for is that we inspire a few to care more...

    Oh yeah, still got a four gallon box full to the brim of unscanned negatives and still stunned by my dad who binned a suitcase full (and I mean full) of b&w negatives as he thought no-one would be interested... :pipe:

    Scan them in, give a copy on disc to all the family, and like that bottle thrown upon the ocean waves, it might be found one day and some might wonder about who took them...
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  16. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  17. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Thank you so much for bumping this thread !

    My family & I were discussing this very topic the other day and came to the following conclusion.

    In today's world, with it's lack of "affordable" housing, young couples tend to buy flats rather than houses and consequently have little or no room to store non-essential items such as family albums and therefore store virtually every image on line.

    Best regards

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2017

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