Negative Thoughts

Crossroads in rural Indiana, USA

This photo got me thinking about negatives. I made the shot in Indiana when I was a teenager. We’d moved there from Alaska during my senior year of high school. It was dusk, and the negative is thin. I didn’t even notice the photo at the time. So the negative sat there, and sat there, and sat there. Forty years later, when I was converting several of my negatives to digital I found this image. I love the photo.

Besides being a photo I like to look at, it’s also a time capsule that gives me a sense of how I saw things as a teenager when I was starting out as a photographer.

It’s hard to say if this kind of discovery would have happened if the original shot, from so long ago, had been digital.

Crossroads in rural Indiana, USA
Crossroads in rural Indiana, USA

Digital filing and recovery depends on keywords. Any photo that isn’t keyworded correctly is simply thrown into the void, likely never to be seen again. If I didn’t notice the shot when I first took it, it probably wouldn’t have been keyworded. And what word would I use to stumble on the lost shot now? It’s hard to say what a forty year collection of redundant hard drives will look like. I probably wouldn’t scan through them like I did the contact sheets of my negatives.

Recent studies have raised questions about the safety and permanence of digital storage. The movie industry believes the studies. A while back the major movie studios subsidized Kodak so they could keep making the film that digital movies are backed up onto for long-term storage.

So, what to do? I don’t know.

I love the esthetic of shooting film with my M6’s, but like most photographers I know I spend a lot of my time shooting digital, for the convenience, with my M9’s.

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