ASHES TO ASHES, PIXELS TO PIXEL DUST
“What was I thinking?”
“Who is this?”
“Why did I waste film on this picture?”
I keep asking myself these questions as I continue the arduous task of going through, winnowing down and throwing out hundreds and hundreds of slides that I’ve shot over my 35 year career.
These aren’t the pictures I’ve shot for the newspapers. These are the freelance assignments for magazines and books, personal pictures from long ago vacations and pictures of people I was once close to, places and things I thought might have some commercial value as stock images and things I found visually interesting.
Lovingly captioned and archived in binders, they’ve been ignored for more than two decades.
Looking at them brings back good memories of family visits, exciting adventures and beautiful sunsets. Kodachrome won’t fade for 10,000 years, but our lives change and shift and memories fade.
Film was expensive, but it was worth it. I learned about light and exposure, technique and composition from every frame. And that helped me hone my skills and grow as a photographer.
We’re just back from a five-week trip to Europe where I shot over 3500 digital frames. That’s nearly 100 rolls of slide film, which would take up over a foot of shelf space to store. Those pictures fit on a handful of SC and CF cards and seem to take up nearly no space on my hard drive.
I tried to avoid joining the throngs of tourists shooting buildings and landmarks, instead trying to find photographs of real people doing real things. That was challenging in busy cities like Prague and Budapest where tourists were everywhere, pointing compact cameras, cell phones and even tablets at St. Stephen’s mummified arm, the Szechenyi Baths or Prague Castle.
We all need these vacation pictures to validate our experiences and to help remember the places we visited and the people we travelled with. But what will become of these digital treasures in five or ten years? Since most people don’t backup or print their digital images, will those memories be lost to a stolen cell phone or a crashed hard drive.
Or, will these digital images face the same fate that my beloved Kodachrome slides are now facing?