U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Digital Film backup

Re: Digital Film backup

----- Original Message ----- From: "Sandy King" <sanking@clemson.edu>
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2007 12:52 PM
Subject: Re: Digital Film backup

I agree that losing most of what we shoot is not a bad thing. Every
five years or so I go through my work and discard about 90% of it.

However, if I were going to archive important work that was captured
on digital I would not do so on Ektachrome since the dyes are not
permanent. It would be much better to make color separations on B&W
pan film. You could capture more detail than is in most digital
prints with 120 or 220 film and 6X7 or 6X9 format.


I don't think there is any perfect storage medium. Film certainly has limitations, the dye fading of color films and the degradation of flexible film supports being examples. However, there are methods of preserving photographic materials for very long periods of time. These, however, rely on constant care over the period. For instance, one method of preserving is to refrigerate the material. This requires that the refrigeration continue in operation. This sort of constant stewardship is not different in essential form from the requirements of storing digital which must be stored under controlled conditions and migrated to fresh media or new formats periodically.
I think one of the objections to digital is simply that the technology is still in a state of rapid flux with new developments on a nearly constant basis. While one could argue that photographic materials underwent nearly continuous development from the beginning to the present time the sort of change is different. Advances in digital storage tend to supplant existing methods rather than simply improving them. This is very different than the development in photographic materials and processes which did not require an entire process to be changed to recover existing material. The proof is that nearly any photographic material from the very beginnings of photography to the present can be viewed, mostly without special equipment, or, as in the case of motion pictures, with relatively simple equipment. This is not true of digital and is not likely to be true in the future.
There are arguments on both sides but the same rapid development of digital storage methods that is part of the problem now may provide the solution in the future. IMO computer technology, as sophisticated as it is, is still in a relatively early stage of development. So early that I think its not possible to predict its future direction, at least not beyond the fairly near future.
My main objection to digital imaging is that I enjoy chemical photography and digital has supplanted too much of it. There can be all the digital stuff in world provided I can still buy good film and printing paper at reasonable prices.
As far as archiving one must choose the methods with track records: photographic materials have a very long track record for both pictorial images and document copying (microfilm) while digital is too new to have any sort of record. I think both methods will have to co-exist until digital proves itself to be significantly superior to photographic methods or some other method perhaps not now even thought of.

Richard Knoppow
Los Angeles, CA, USA