…The Role of Photographers

If Writers Are Wordsmiths, Then Photographers Are…

19 Mar 2012

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Tags ArchiveCornwall photographerFrances Annie BaxterJewish Public Librarymemory,Moment.us Photography,preservationsocial historywordsmith,writers

…Imagesmiths? Memorysmiths?

Last month, I had a little reunion with my good friend Anne. I’ve blogged previously about Anne, her amazing line of clothes (the coats and mittens? To DIE for…), and how awesome she’s been as a mentor, so it’s no surprise that our February rendez  vous left me feeling excited and energised yet again.

Shopping with Anne is an experience unlike many others. To understand my perspective on this, it’s important to know that I’m not a seamstress. In fact, I’m so much the opposite of a seamstress that it’s kind of amazing that Anne even lets me tag along with her when shopping for fabrics in Soho. Anne sees fabrics and instantly has ideas about beautiful clothing to make. I see fabrics and instantly imagine wrapping babies in them or making something to suspend babies in… Tomato, tomahhhto….

One of the topics we discussed during our February get together was that of the role of the photographer in society. Anne was thinking about the historical aspect of photography, which led us to libraries and their archives. Any major library has documents – books, letters, maps – that are of particular value and will need preserving. Librarians have archivists (Montreal’s Jewish Public Libraryhappens to have a particularly talented archivist 

:) ) to deal with handling documents worthy of preservation. These people are specialists in their field, not just some people who REALLY like books. Archivists help preserve the written word for posterity. They handle documents with special gloves to keep the paper from decomposing at a faster rate; they keep the documents in rooms designed to help safeguard their longevity; they keep the public from treating specific documents carelessly.

Photographers are there to preserve memories for posterity. Like archivists, we are specialists in our field; we are not just people who happen to have a camera. My job is to ‘curate’ memories: to prepare the images in a particular way in order to protect against careless treatment; to back-up the files in multiple formats in order to safeguard an image’s longevity. Photographic technology has improved to the point where it’s less and less likely that you’ll deal with photos that are crumbling after 40 or 50 years, but in a time when technology is also moving at a pace faster than any other time in history, it’s a photographer’s job to safeguard your images against obsolescence.


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