Atkins has been a champion for the preservation of photographs. Recently, in the UK and now in Australia, the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) and Fuji have partnered to push the message home through a series of posters. Here is some background by Danny Williams of Swains' camera stores in the UK:
“There is”, he said, “a real danger that a family who don’t make prints or manage their electronic images will find themselves without any photo history. He compared this to the Domesday book, created on paper in 1086 and still readable today over 900 years later. Yet in 1986 a new Domesday book was created, at a cost of £2.5 million containing maps, pictures and video footage, It was stored on CD and is no longer readable.
“We need” said Williams “to shock people into realising that their heritage is not preserved electronically.
This is a great campaign, a very simple message, however it is worth explaining to people a little more detail as the problem is a wider one.
We are currently creating more photographs than ever, and the value of any one image is very low. If, and that is a big IF, people actually want their survivors to experience what they have in discovering a rich history of photos from the past, then they will have to take it all much more seriously.
Just making prints will not help. We will be inundated with forests worth of prints. They may be poorly printed and last no time at all. What has to happen, is proper curation of photographs. Careful selection, careful application of metadata (who is in the photos, what is happening, where and when it was taken), and careful printing at reputable professional services (such as Atkins) who use archival materials. This applies to digital storage, it all needs proper curation.
We have been incredibly lucky. early photographic processes were very stable, the prints lasted. And because the prints cost money, only a few were printed, only the most important images have survived.
This is now an urgent situation. We are facing a catastrophic loss of our social history.