OK, I love an actual artefact – the touchy-feely real things in life, but there’s a lot to be said for the power of digital – especially when it comes to digital legacies. You just have to take a look at this old photo to see how much an artefact can diminish over time.
This black and white photo (above) did not enjoy being in a frame, behind glass. I never did chemistry, but I’m sure someone out there could explain the process that’s gone on. The original now shines with a metallic finish and patches of the filmic surface have stuck to the glass and laid bare white patches of the photo paper underneath. Tragic. And this isn’t an early photograph. It’s from my daughter’s birth in 1987. (That’s me doing my Kate Bush impersonation.)
It doesn’t look so very different from this one (below).
This is a recently discovered image of my great grandparents … a couple I’d never seen before. Very exciting. And I can see the gene pool coming through. This one dates closer to 1887 than 1987 so it’s faring not too badly. But it’s fundamentally not a very clear image. Doh. I really want a good peek at my predecessors. And this is where digital wins again. Even with the simplest of mobile phones these days, the technology rarely lets us down. Digital just does the job better for the average Jo/e with limited photo skills.
This month I’ve got another reason to go digital. I have a big landmark birthday in March and decided to deal with another old image problem. The Scottish artist John Bellany did a sketch of me in the mid-80s. A quick pen on light cardboard job, on the hoof.
Again, it’s been framed and behind glass all these years. It’s been fading pretty much in line with my own fading. My Dorian Gray. When I took it to a conservator, she recommended that, given the poor quality of the cardboard, which has been buckling slightly all these years, and due to the impermanence of the ink, there’s not that much to be done other than clean it the best she can and digitise the image. The photographer will do his best to punch up the contrast to optimise the delicate lines. We’ll then reframe the original behind the digital. It’s not perfect but it’ll help preserve what’s left of the image.
History in the making
So what’s my point? Well, as I began, I like artefact. I like the tangible, the object, the real thing, the sense of history, the dents and bumps and the fading. Wabi sabi – the art of imperfection. But when it comes to photos of people, I just want to get a really good look at them, see the best, clearest image.
So I urge you, if you have loved, treasured, cherished family photos – heirlooms, framed or in shoeboxes, please think about their longevity and pass-on-ability. Scan them or take a photo with your phone and load them up to your Final Fling Memory Box page. Date and title them. Share them with your significant others. As the two photos above show, 100 years flies by and soon it’s hard to tell several generations apart. Share your treasures with your Keyholders. And the more mundane but essential, securely share the paperwork next of kin will need. That’s what Final Fling is all about.