Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The perilous life of pictures

ANTICIPATING THE INAUGURATION next week of Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson, our 12th president, I've been assembling historic photos from the inaugurations of Nos. 9, 10 and 11: Sister Magdalen Coughlin (1976), Sister Karen Kennelly (1990) and Dr. Jacqueline Powers Doud (2000).

Before Sister Magdalen's, inaugurations must have been quiet handoffs among the CSJs, because there are absolutely no photos to be found. I found several of Sisters Magdalen and Karen but I came up empty for Dr. Doud. Uh-oh, I thought... they're digital. I don't receive digital photos in the archives and have no easy way to keep them if I did.

After a fruitless search of hard disks in the PR office, I was starting to get thoroughly depressed when I walked over to a stack of old binders I knew had negatives and contact sheets from PR in the '90s. Miracle! Eight sheets of jewel-like color slides - not labeled, of course, but easy to squint at and identify. I had 20 digitized at DVD Your Memories in Culver City and will add them to the display.

I chatted with the DVD-YM technician about the period of transition we're in between fully paper and fully digital photography. It makes archives a major challenge. The former are fragile, but the latter disappear if you're not paying attention.

My colleague Pia Orense and I now know that PR has digital photography almost exclusively after 2001. That means these slides of Dr. Doud's inaugural on Oct. 17, 2000, are among the very last of the physical images in the College.

We have a lot of work ahead if we're going to keep them around through three more inaugurals.

1 comment:

  1. The issue is also an economic one from a practical standpoint: digital is cheaper because when I choose to print, I can eliminate the ones I don't like and with a roll of film, everything gets printed regardless of misfires.

    But take heart: I am working on a project with a Catholic school in the valley where I am photographing events for a yearbook publication. The school decided to go with an old fashioned paste-up option, so each page is being assembled manually to be scanned later for publication. They tried to do the project on computer first, but the kids wanted to work with the printed images by hand rather than on the computer screen. They are doing some extraordinary collages.

    I think we need to just figure out a way to archive the digital material permanently and effectively. That being said, as a photographer, I do miss having my negatives in case of an emergency. Now I have to keep backing up the nearly 11,000 images on my computer.