An interesting encounter on Twitter got me thinking about the subject of permanence in relation to digital photography. Humorously @pogue (aka David Pogue) was noting the grammatical error in Outdoor Photographer referencing the “sense of permanency” of digital photography in books. David Pogue, a New York Times technology writer and Internet celebrity, while making light of this grammatical faux pas got me thinking perhaps the writer made a Freudian or even blatant slip revealing the underlying opinion that digital photography lacks permanence.
Numerous articles, including more than one on my blog, have discussed the critical need to back up digital photos as hard drive failure and natural disasters are inevitable. The question remains, is digital photography any less of a permanent medium than film photography?
Any artistic medium is subject to disaster, small and large, and the elements. Often we delude ourselves thinking that what we create will last forever. We’re inundated with marketing for archival material (ex. 100 year ink or paper, film, gold DVDs, etc.) but this in itself is an illusion when you think beyond the context of a single lifetime. I suppose for many of us a single lifetime is more than enough to ponder. Anything more would be presumptuous. For more on this in relation to prints I recommend listening to Brooks Jensen’s take in relation to Archival Madness. None the less many creatives do think in this way. For the few lucky enough to be considered influencers and masters, thinking this far ahead will pay off.
For the rest of us how realistic is the expectation that our digital photos taken today will be useable in 10, 20, 30 or 50 years? While digital photography provides great upside in immediate access, dynamic range, clarity, etc. here and now its longevity is questionable. CD’s and DVDs erode or get lost, hard drives fail, file formats change, backup formats change, computer operating systems change… everything changes with digital technology. The strength of film and why it feels safer to some is that over decades the formats varied very little and definitely less than digital has in its very short lifetime.
If you’re thinking that your work holds permanence think again. It might be best to reset your expectations knowing that you’re bound to experience a failure and loss of your work whether in digital or printed form. It’s just a matter of time. Or is it?
And just for David… be sure to you choose a smart approach to ensure the permanency of your digital photography. The same goes for you film photography dinosaurs.
[tags]Photography, permanence, digital photography, film photography, back-up strategy[/tags]