Clearing Out Photos

A while back I spent an evening clearing out old photos, discarding the duplicates and failures. There’s very little after 2001, because it was soon after then when I switched to digital photography, so everything files itself neatly on an arbitrarily large hard drive.

If I could send a message to the 8-year old me, taking possession of his first camera, I’d probably give him the following suggestions.

1. When you receive your photos back from the developers, take out the ones that are blurred to the point which you can’t tell what they are. Take out the duplicates. You can leave in the ones of people that you secretly don’t actually like, but be aware that in twenty years, they will probably get discarded too.

2. Write some information on the back of each one with a felt-tip pen. Though they are all in their correct envelopes in sequential order on your shelf right now, they won’t always be. Put the date on them. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it is useful information.

3. Don’t worry about names for now. In twenty years, if you can’t remember their name, then they probably didn’t make that much of an impact on you. However, at that point you SHOULD start adding names, because Alzheimer’s is just around the corner.

There is a certain tragedy to the way that photos are no longer something tangible that you flick through and handle by the edges. Much like music, we’ve learned how to extract the data and shift it between different formats at will. Sure, it’s still the same underlying data, but the romance is lost.

Remember to keep making those backups, guys.

4 replies on “Clearing Out Photos”

I’ve recently started printing digital photos. It really transforms your relationship with the image. Most of my family are online, but nothing beats handing them a wad of shiny 6x4s.

My mum would agree with you on #2, she’s been doing that for years. I used to think it was a bit anal, but as the years fly by and I have trouble remembering whether a particular occasion happened in 1991 or 1992, I begin to see her point.

You had a camera when you were 8?

We’ve got a large box of photos in the loft, gathering dust. I have a scanner sat on my desk, gathering dust.

I wonder if the two will ever meet?

Yes, I had a camera when was 8. Just a crappy little 110-cartridge thing from Boots, but a camera nonetheless. My parents used to pay to have my pictures developed, poor bastards.

I’ve never even considered scanning in all my old photos – I don’t really see the point.

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