WARNING!!! USB THUMB DRIVES ARE SOON-TO-BE-EXTINCT
© 2016 Gregory Georges
In my short life, I’ve listened to music played on 7″ and 12″ vinyl records, reel-to-reel tapes, 4-track tapes, 8-track tapes, compact cassettes, CDs, digital audio tapes, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, streaming-music services, and many digital audio formats.
With each media came a new player, destined to become outdated and inaccessible. There are lessons in that for photographers.
A personal story about media loss and the pain it causes
Earlier this year, my wife and I emptied the house where she grew up. We found her childhood box of nearly perfect 45 rpm vinyl records and would love to have listened to them, but as we don’t have a record player, they’re useless.
Always Accessible — a beautiful album from Joshua Kogan at Studio JLK.
How this affects you as a photographer
If you take the “shoot and burn” approach, those thumb drives you deliver the image files on will soon be as useless as a floppy disk — or those vinyl records. You don’t think so? What was the last digital technology you thought would never disappear—maybe CD-Roms? Do you even remember when Apple removed DVD players from their laptops?
Millennials are often the ones that will hire you to photograph their weddings. They grew up on iPhones, tablets, and cloud storage. Most won’t own a computer or a device with a USB port … and if they do now, it won’t be long. Even their grandparents won’t be far behind.
How will your clients view their wedding images on that thumb drive?
Some things you only understand over time. The adage “A shoebox of memories never fails” has never been more true. Those of us immersed in the day’s digital technologies can miss what matters most: the ability to easily enjoy memories for generations.
Back with the music, our media loss wasn’t confined to Linda’s 45s.
Discovering her father’s collection of more than 100 cassette tapes gave us insight into his musical tastes and a new understanding of his life in the 30s, 40s, and 50s—101 Strings, Pete Fountain, Benny Goodman, Nat King Cole, Boogie Woogie, Tommy Dorsey, and His Orchestra. Again, we couldn’t listen to them.
We found a box of 16mm film containers in the garage and an ancient Arriflex 16mm film movie projector. Ah-ha! We had the media and the right projector. We opened the film reel boxes—sadly, all we found was crumbled film.
We spent countless hours going through photographic prints taken by her uncle, mother, and father. Her uncle had been a professional photographer and longtime PPA member. Early in her uncle’s career, his muse was my wife. His film work was terrific. We were thrilled to see the prints.
After five days of cleaning and sorting, we had eight boxes that contained things we wanted to take home and keep—four filled with family photographs and albums. The photos taught me much about my wife’s childhood and family.
When we got home, we carefully stored the photos so that those stories could reveal her family history—our family history—and so that those photos could do what prints have always done best: give future generations limitless opportunities to look into our lives quickly.
After my wife read this post, she said:
“What is sad is that ever since you began shooting digitally (and taking so many photos), we see and enjoy them less than when you took the film to a camera store.
Each time you developed a roll of film, you had prints made, and many of them found their way into albums and frames over time. Your beautiful digital photos sit on hard drives in mass quantities and are rarely seen.
Looking around the house, you find albums and prints we enjoy every day. All of them were prints from when you used a film camera.”
A few weeks later, as we looked at our wedding album, we wondered what the future would bring to brides and their children, who got their wedding images on a thumb drive, or some other extinct media that was supposed to preserve their wedding or family portrait photos.