Last night I finished typing my old poems from twenty and twenty-five years ago into my computer. I had a computer when I wrote those poems and used it to print them, but where are those files now? Lost through accident because of poor or nonexistant backup practices, deleted by mistake and never noticed, or perhaps sitting on a floppy disk in an obsolete document format at the bottom of a landfill in Grand Falls or Andong. But on my bookshelf I still have all the poems I’ve written since university. Perfectly readable on odinary printer paper that hasn’t yellowed or crumbled.
I make backups of my documents and photographs these days. I’m careful about it, but accidents do happen and sometimes I’m careless. That’s why I make 8×10 prints of my best photographs every month and put them in archival folders. They will outlive me, never become obsolete and unviewable by human eyes, and I can’t accidentally delete or forget to include them in a backup.
I am currently not making any photos because I have a virtual pile on my hard drive that haven’t been edited, printed, shared, rated, or archived. Also, I think the shock of importing twenty-five thousand photos from a backup drive the other day put me off adding anything else to the D: drive of my computer, the poor suffering thing. The burden of having so many pictures started me thinking (not for the first time) about what I’m supposed to do with all my film and bits and bytes. No one buys photographs, there are only so many I can fit on my walls, photo albums take up valuable shelf space, and although friends thank me for sending them pictures through the post, they probably don’t want my photos piling up in the bottoms of their drawers or going into the rubbish bin. So, as part of my photo organising (a life-time project), I decided to write down what kind of photos I make and what I might do with them.
I mostly want to make fine art photographs. These have some artistic merit through either technique or meaning or hopefully both. These photos get printed on 8×10 paper and stored in archival sleeves and binders. At the end of each year, I choose the best ones, print them on nice paper, and put them in a special portfolio binder for presentation. A digital copy gets put on my website in a gallery separate from the blog. You can see these galleries in the menu on the left. I haven’t done so yet, but I’m thinking about offering some for sale.
The photos that I might most treasure in ten or twenty years are the ones I make of friends and family. Memory photos. They don’t have to be good photos, they just have to be reasonably clear representations of people and animals I know. These I print on 4×6 paper and place in albums to be looked at now and then.
I have family in Canada and pen friends from all over the world. Most or all of them have never been to Korea so I sometimes make photos to show them what things in Korea look like. Markets, buildings, downtown areas, whatever might be unfamiliar to someone who has never been to the country. These, I think, should be decent photos with good exposure and composition to best explain what’s being seen. Photos in this category could be artistic if I’m on top of my game or they might even get put in an album if I think the subject is a good memory. Normally, however, these photos don’t get printed. I post them on this blog or send them by email to people I know. I hope I never lose them, but it wouldn’t be a great loss if they disappeared from the world.
Writing this little essay has cleared my mind a bit, so I’m glad I did it. Now I don’t see 25,000 useless pictures clogging up a hard drive, I see a collection of photos that can be used in a variety of ways and that have purpose.
That said, I’m going to delete a lot of those twenty-five thousand pictures that are just mistakes and boring. But that’s another story.
The title comes from the traditional Newfoundland song “We’ll Rant and We’ll Roar” which is sung to the tune of the British folk song “Spanish Ladies”.
Why am I ranting and roaring? I’m only ranting and roaring on the inside but I was pretty fed up this morning when I went to the photo lab to pick up the film prints I ordered last Monday and was told, “Oh, I didn’t do them. I forgot.” This is not the first time this has happened. It happens almost every time. Film work collects dust on a shelf while he attends immediately to everyone who walks in with a USB drive or a mobile phone. I’m going to go back again tomorrow and see if he’s got them done. He is probably doing them today because I was so irritated. I don’t think I’m going to bring my film there anymore. I thought about sending things to Seoul but this means more money for postal costs, etc. I should just use digital. And buy a good printer so I can avoid photo labs altogether. But getting good prints at home is not easy and ink is not cheap. Not for the first time I wonder if I should buy paper and pencils and learn sketching . . . .