The photo industry – particularly the bit of it which prints photographs – has been battling to keep its head above water since the digital revolution made photographic prints optional. This week it was thrown a mighty lifeline when the respected internet pioneer, Dr Vint Cerf, expressed his fears of a Digital Dark Age obliterating the photographic records of the 21st century and beyond.
‘In our zeal to get excited about digitising we digitise photographs thinking it’s going to make them last longer, and we might turn out to be wrong,’ he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science. ‘I would say if there are photos you are really concerned about create a physical instance of them. Print them out.’
This is ‘Print It or Lose It’ the message we have been telling each other for a decade or more we really should be out there evangelising – but seldom do. We have been dumb. Not stupid, mind, just unwilling or unable to speak up for ourselves. As a retailing segment, we have let photography become invisible.
So what are we going to do now? The story had a pretty good run. Maybe it will generate a bit of extra business. So just wait and see? Or jump on the opportunity and amplify that message in any way we can? An opportunity like this one maybe won’t come our way again. It could mark one of those paradigm shifts conference lecturers are always banging on about – or it could be a three-day wonder if we allowed that to happen.
Georgia McCabe, the newly appointed CEO of PMA in the US, has been quick off the mark in making a connection with Vint Cerf, with a view to exploring ways the photo industry and the digital guru can work together – because he clearly has a real concern about this digital black hole. In a recent interview Georgia herself referred to her concern about a ‘digital landfill in the sky’ and how turning that around would be a priority for PMA in future. This is great news. A PMA focussed on its members’ survival rather than its own will have a far greater prospect of success, in my opinion.
But what about photo shops in the towns and suburbs or Australia? Below this rant is my small contribution, by way of a generic press release. Feel free to use it any way you wish. Change it around, have it reflect what your store offers, send it to your local newspaper – with an appropriate picture – or radio station. Put it on your website. Send it out in a newsletter. You can access a higher res copy of the Vint Cerf pic using the link provided – but remember to attribute. This draft release is soft on the retailing message and long on the ‘digital dark ages’ message, to make it read less like advertising copy. It’s using Phil Gresham as the spokesperson (It’s been a few weeks since he’s had a mention in Photo Counter, so he must be feeling neglected!) but that’s just to avoid the dreaded [INSERT NAME HERE].
Don’t lose you photographic memories!
The simplest and most inexpensive way to avoid your family’s photos disappearing into what the co-founder of the internet recently described as the looming ‘Digital Dark Age’ is also the most obvious – print them!
– So says [Phil Gresham], owner of [FotoFast Photo Design Centre, Taringa.]
Dr Vint Cerf, currently a senior executive with Google and generally acknowledged as a pioneer of the internet, last week warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science that we could be headed for a ‘Digital Dark Age’, where future access to our records is limited due to irretrievable and unreadable data. He mentioned digital photos as particularly vulnerable.
‘In our zeal to get excited about digitising we digitise photographs thinking it’s going to make them last longer, and we might turn out to be wrong,’ he said. ‘I would say if there are photos you are really concerned about create a physical instance of them. Print them out.’
‘For years we have been trying to get this message out, but maybe the suspicion has been that we are just trying to drum up business,’ said [Phil Gresham]. ‘Now here’s a visionary of Vint Cerf’s stature, with absolutely no connections with the photo industry, advocating exactly the same thing.’
The irony is that, thanks largely to digital technology, there has never been such a range of options for making ‘hard copies’ of your family’s precious photographic memories, noted [Mr Gresham], and some of the new photo papers will last 100 to 200 years.
‘Many people won’t be aware that you can create photographic prints direct from your smartphone. We even print direct from Instagram pictures. We can also print from SD cards, from CDs or DVDs, or you can send an order in online from your home computer. You can pick it up next day from the store or we can deliver it via post.
‘You can of course make standard photographic prints, and they are way less expensive that in the days of film. Most photo stores, including [FotoFast], also create beautiful, long-lasting inkjet posters and canvas enlargements in store, as well as photo books, the ‘photo albums of the 21st century.’
‘If you haven’t been into a photo shop for a few years – or maybe never – you will be amazed with what’s on offer, and our staff are there to help get you started.
‘We want to be part of the solution,’ he said. ‘I’ve heard too many sad stories over the years of, for instance, parents who have lost the entire history of their kids’ childhoods when a PC failed, not to be passionate about this.’
The message was further reinforced by a local academic, Dr Chris Chesher, senior lecturer in Digital Cultures at the University of Sydney, who noted that computer hard drives had a life of around 5 years or less, while storing digital images on ‘The Cloud’ – Facebook, Flickr, etc – offers no guarantees that your precious memories are safe.
‘When you look at the terms of service of a lot of the cloud companies, they say a lot of friendly things [about how] they’ll look after their data,’ he told 702 ABC Sydney.
‘But when it comes down to it – terms of service – basically, “we’re not going to take any responsibility at all”.’
‘The recommendation is to diversify the instances of that data, so printing out your photographs is one of the ways. Even if your hard drive goes down, your cloud service disappears or gets corrupted, you still have the hard copy.
‘Paper is still one of the best archiving forms that we have.’