Here is a question for all of you, that i have no answer for.
I am involved in a local heritage group. One of our big issues, well, for all historians, is the giant "memory hole" we are creating at this very time. In no particular order, here are the issues:
I've been in photography for 25 years, and 25 years ago, what it took a lot of expensive equipment and years of training do to can now be done by a 12 year old on a computer in moments. For example, B&W photos taken on an old Kodak brownie were printed as is, the good, bad & ugly - nothing was changed because very few people had the talent, know how and equipment to alter negatives by hand. I suspect that today there's more photo editing going on in the average household than the entire propaganda depatment of the British Intellligence Unit during WW II.
Almost every photo editing program has some sort of "one step" or "one shot" photo fix up button.
So my point is this - I am NOT speaking artisically - but from the point of view as a historian and & archivist - what can we belive anymore. Every magazine,movie and professional image is photoshopped anymore. People are doing the same at home. 200 years from now, what "real", untouched images are we going to have left?
Yes, images including photography have been staged and formated in such a way to show what people wanted to see, not what rally was, but my point is, there wee enough amatuer and home shooters that we can get reasonable handles on what things looked like 100 years ago. For exmaple, 100 years ago a photo of a factory for business purposes might be touched up by hand, but local neighbourhood photos taken ont he old Kodak brownie were not.
As a historian, I can tell you, this is simply not true today- everybody wants things to look "beautifu:.
2) - Archival standards.
We have a real problem in medium. Almost all CDs and DVDs are NOT archival quaity, unless you are special ordering Taiyo Yuden disks. Go to this link as one small example of what i am talking about:http://www.digitalfaq.com/media/dvdmedia.htm
So, most people cannot read old 3.25" floppy disks, our cDs and DVDs will nto stand up, what will we have 100 years form now.
There's another issue with upgrading software too. A year or so ago a news tory made the rounds about how the US navy upgraded to a new version of autocad. Well the new version imported the old drawings, but it made some very sublte changes - for example a very thin line became a thing dotted line. When you are dealing with teh innards of nuclear reactor, such small changes matter.
But here's my pint - not from art point of view, but form ARCHIVAL points of view, it is vitally esstential that everything remain unchanged. Those tiny little differences that may or may not take place as you import your jpegs and TIFFs from one upgrade to another, or even say your Nikon NEF files, and you upgrade your Nikon software, and something changes, do we loose something. Again I must repeat myself, this is from the archival standard.
right now, the only electronic format I know of that preserves every little bit of data without changing (I hope) is the astronomical FITS format, but with the way software changes constantly, I am wondering there too.
3) - loss of media
While Epson does make archival quality inks, the vast, vast majority of family prints that are done at big box retail stores are NOT done with archival paper and inks. Even look at some of your old colour negatives - outside of Kodachrome, how many of you have old colour prints, slides and negatives where the dyes are fading?
The other sad fact is since 1870, almost all books are printed on paper that has acid in them. Very, very few books of any kind, fiction, non fiction, art, etc, are printed on acid free archival quality paper. We have books printed on old rag paper from 1850 that are in excellent shape, but a book form 20 years later is litterally falling apart.
Movie films too are affected. I was watching a program on TCM about how something like 50% of all movies made before 1945 are lost, and something like 80 or 90% of all movie made before 1930 (ish) have been forever lost. I stand to be corrected on thos figures, but you get the point
4) too much information
The average family on vacation might shoot a couple rolls of film. even somebody who shot 10 rolls of film would come back with what - 10x36 = 360 shots. Today, I talk to people who come back with something like 5 or ten 1, 2 or 54 gig cards full of photos, and the actual number of shots ranging in the thousands!
Here's the paradox - the more we have, the less time we have to sort the wheat from the chaff, and the less time we have just o keep it all together. Then everytime you buy a new computer, you have to transfer and backup, and sometimes people just don't have the time to do that. I've talked to many people who have lost images over the years.
Again, I am talking about the average family. Let me put it this way, I read a statistic the other day that says the average family in the USA spends LESS than 5 meals together *per week*. So, if the average family cannot find time in today's world to spend time for meals together, where's the time to copy photographs over and over agian? This i likely the wrong forum to ask this question as I assume most people here are diligent in their backups, but i am talking overall, real world, day to day living.
So there you - what's to be done? My personal solution is shooting 4x5, single sheet film, processing archival quality B&W negatives, and stored in a metal safe.
But I can tell you, from an archival point of view, not an artistic one, that all the image processing of modern day photography is turning into something of a disaster. And sadly, one that very few either know or care about
thanks for letting me rant
PS - sorry for the typos and spelling, I know they are there, but cannot always see them. Sometimes dyslexia just plain sucks.