I have had this topic in mind to blog about for months. A lot of months. It’s been playing in the back of my mind and occasionally I was serious enough to bring up my editor and try to start writing about this. Each time I have backed out and moved on to other things. It’s a big topic and I didn’t know how to approach it without getting too personal or without risking looking like someone who is too self-important. Even now I am struggling with this intro, but I really want to put this out there for people to consider. So I have decided that I can’t separate how personal this is for me and I can’t take my own feelings and drama out of it……it’s who I am……and what is important to me. I have also decided to break this up into more than one blog entry.
Earlier this month, the home of country music star Trace Adkins’ home caught fire. Thankfully, all the family at home escaped but the house was a total loss. This is a quote from a CNN article regarding Trace’s wife Rhonda’s one regret: With her daughters, their nanny and the family dog safe, Adkins said it was easy for her to be calm and thankful despite the loss of her home. She did have one regret, though.
“I have not backed up all my photographs, and I’m just sitting here sick because those are the things that matter the most,” she said. “It’s your memories, our wedding pictures, I don’t have, because the negatives are in the house.
“Please, everybody, practice fire safety, and back up all your pictures,” she said.
In 2007, director Francis Ford Copolla was the victim of a computer and external hard drive theft in Buenos Aires. According to the BBC, he pleaded through a local reporter for the return of the hard drive. “If I could get the backup back, it would save me years [of] all the photographs of my family, all my writing.”
Some time ago, I asked this question on my personal facebook page: Quick! Your house is on fire! All your loved ones and your pets have made it to safety and you have 30 seconds to grab what is most important to you and save it from the flames and/or water. What’s it gonna be?
I asked this question to stress the value of portrait photography. I suspected that most people would give the same answer as me when confronted with this scenario. And I was right. Of the people that responded to this question, the majority agreed that their photographs were absolutely the most important item in their home. Some said they had an emergency plan already in place and all their photos and baby books were in one location and that everyone was aware it was the important things to grab if there was time. Some talked about grabbing their external hard drives or laptops that housed their images. I even had a client say the images I took of their child as a newborn is what they would grab. I wasn’t expecting an answer so specific but I admit that knowing how important those photos are to that mommy, that they are the one “thing” from her home she would want to save from the flames, as their professional photographer that felt pretty amazing.
This week I want to share my views on the value of portrait photography and next week we will cover data backups and storage. So, why do so many people agree about the importance of their photographs? Why would so many reach out to save them in the event of a disaster? By asking that question on my facebook page, I wanted to confirm my suspicions that many people agree that the “things” that fill your home are all replaceable…..all but your photos. Your photos are the physical form of your memories. When you look back on your photos, for a split second it takes you back in time and renews the memory. One of my favorite quotes on photography was made by Aaron Siskand and says “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” Our history is in our photographs…..what we want to remember about our lives and what we want others to know about us after we are gone. They are irreplaceable because you cannot go back in time and record that moment again. Once taken, that moment is gone forever. And as all parents know all too well, time is fleeting and children grow up so quickly.
Hopefully there are two kinds of photographs that make up your photographic history……..your professional portraits and your snapshots. Both are important to the makeup of your portrait library. Even as a professional photographer, believe me, I have plenty of snapshots of my everyday life too and I treasure each and every one of them. Some may disagree with my views on choosing a professional photographer and how often you should have professional photos made, but this is my blog, so I am sharing my views here. I believe that because your photographs are so important, you should save for your professional portraits and make it a worthwhile investment. Hire a professional photographer as often as you are financially comfortable doing so, but do not base your choice on price alone. Research professional photographers well and check out their portfolio and/or blog well, looking for a consistency to their images and a style that speaks to you in a way that you can see your family’s story being told. It’s a good idea to check for testimonials or to talk to your friends about experiences they have had with photographers. If the photographer that you really love is more expensive than you are comfortable visiting every year, then choose to have your portraits taken every other year. And then please don’t forget to fill in the time between your professional sessions with plenty of snapshot documentation of your family’s life. Those images taken using your camera and your eye, of your family’s everyday life, will be more and more precious as the years go by, much as your professional portraits.
I have to say I have never regretted a single dime I have paid for my professional portraits. Or more precisely, I have always felt my family’s professional portraits were a worthwhile investment. When my daughter was younger and I was not as informed about photography, I chose a couple of my photographers based on how cheaply I could get my images and that was a mistake. I do wish I had spent more time seeking out a better photographer and spent a little more money in the process. I am not saying that you have to go into debt to have good professional photographs. I am saying I have spent a lot more and accumulated some debt in the past for things that are nowhere near as dear to me as my professional photographs. If my family and I had to start all over today and could only take one thing from our life today, there would be no question about what that would be.
So, hopefully by asking my initial question and sharing this information with you, I have you thinking about how important your photographic history is and how you want to invest in it. Of course, once you have spent this time and money and energy creating these wonderful living memories, you need to protect them from all forms of natural and technological disasters. Next week I’ll pick back up on this topic and talk about how to ensure your photo memories are safe in case of a disaster. I will be sharing with you my experiences as a former desktop computer/network technician, hard drive failures and malware, and how to protect yourself. If your photos are as important to you as mine are to me, and you want more information on how to protect them, be sure to visit me next week:)
That was a lot of reading and it doesn’t feel right not to post an image. So, here is one of my lovely daughter (who is growing up way to fast!) with her papa on Father’s Day this year.