Scanning Old Photos – Thoughts from the Process

My First Car – Probably traded it in on a tricycle

As I went through all of these old photos, I had a number of random thoughts which I’ll attempt to remember and summarize.  I’ll probably miss some.

Volume:  In a lot of the older albums, there would be 3-4 photos from each birthday, a dozen or so photos from the family vacation, a handful of photos from Christmas and that was it. Today we take 30 photos of our salad.

Volume 2:  It was interesting that sometimes an entire year’s worth of photos would appear to have come from a single roll of film.  And not 36 photos, usually 12-20.

Volume 3: The amount of space devoted to storing old photos is amazing.  I was able to clear off three shelves of albums and boxes, and the digital photos will all fit on a USB drive.  And we really didn’t have all that many photos, comparatively.

Argus C3. I still have it. I’m pretty sure this was taken at Morton Overlook in the Smokies.

Emotions: My parents have been gone for 30 years, Kathy’s about 6, so grief isn’t something we usually deal with these days.  And it didn’t bother us too much to look at photos of them.  In fact, it mostly brought fond memories and good feelings.  The hard part for me was tossing out the school photos and professional portraits of the kids.  I guess it is similar to the emotions that made us spring for the entire package of photos from Sears – we couldn’t live with the idea that some of those prints would be thrown away, so we bought them all!  Many of those photos were still in the original envelope.  Scanned now, but never looked at in the interim.  Sears made a mint off of us, but they are now out of business anyway.

My brother Bob & me, 1964

Family: When I look through these photos and realize how many of those people are gone, and how many of them are still around, it reminds me to not forget about the actual people.  Saving the photos is one thing, but remember that there are still relationships.  We need to care for the relationships as much (or more) as we do the photographs.

Evolution: One of the thoughts I had during the process was the fact that our generation is sort of acting as an “interface” between the analog and the digital.  People younger than us have never used film, and people older than us don’t generally use digital technology as much as we do.

Evolution 2: The idea of us being stewards of the old was something that occurred to me.  I realize that digital files will eventually be replaced by something as foreign to us now as the idea of computers was to people in the 70s and even 80s.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the really old photos still have a value as “artifacts” whether or not we know the people.

I know exactly where this was taken, and it is still there.

Remember: Even though we take a lot more pictures these days, it’s important to be sure we are diligent about recording the people, places and things that matter to us, not just the foods we eat or ourselves in front of some random landmark.  And be sure to save those photos somewhere within our control, and not entrusted to a faceless corporate entity that ultimately cares more about our money and our data than our memories.

6 thoughts on “Scanning Old Photos – Thoughts from the Process”

  1. The thought of being a liaison between the analog and digital is an interesting one. I know I’ve played the role many times but never considered it thoughtfully until now.
    I had all my father’s slides digitized as well as his (and my) negatives. It’s great to be able to organize them and post them in albums for all to see. I’ve been scanning my mom’s photo albums now and though I’m tossing the 10 versions of the cruise ship photo they took I’m also keeping the really ancient ones of the folks at the root of my tree.

    1. It’s an interesting concept and one that just occurred to me as I was going through the process. The idea of us being stewards of history seems a bit grandiose, but if we don’t make the conversion I’m afraid that there is a lot that will get lost to time.

  2. Cost was the biggest factor on volume I think. I remember some of those multi-month long rolls of film that sat around in the family camera. I also remember as a kid getting yelled at for snapping pictures of any old thing with my little 110 instamatic … “Don’t go around wasting your film!” And perhaps the cost aspect was not necessarily a bad thing, we made sure some of those moments were “picture worthy,” though it didn’t do much for being spontaneous or creative.

    I am not sure if you have ever done any ancestry research – but old photos are invaluable in those communities. I have done my own tree on and when it starts branching out in those older years, coming across a photo is like finding gold. It would be nice if our old family photos don’t end up sitting on a hard drive somewhere, like they did in a shoebox, and could be used for projects like this that benefit others.

    1. I don’t remember what film cost in the days that these albums were done, but I do remember that the cost of the school pictures and Sears seemed exorbitant at the time. When I was shooting medium format slide film I always looked at it as “$1 per click” for the combined cost of film and processing.

      I’ve not done much genealogy research, and a lot of my more recent family history has been fairly well documented. But looking through the old photos has kindled a bit of interest in digging a little deeper into my roots. Who knows what I might find? 😉

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