Saturday, November 19, 2016

Binders Full of Memories

I have spent some time this past week doing a lot of decluttering and cleaning of my spaces where I work at home.  Upstairs, where I do some of my scientific work -- identifying insect specimens and writing-- didn't take too long because it's pretty well organized, but the cleanup sure did make a difference, and allowed me to be more focused on projects that I have been delaying.  Downstairs, though, is where most of my photography-related activities and storage take place.  It's amazing how things can get out of hand after a while.  I had put off inserting my Print-File pages of negatives into the binder for this year, and it looks like I will be going well over 100 rolls of film shot/developed for 2016. That's a fair amount of negatives. Some of course, are test rolls in "new" cameras, or are test rolls of films I had not shot before.  However, the majority of the images are certainly pretty worthy stuff.

The thing I want to stress here is that these are physical objects, not files on a hard drive or CD. I am able to hold the sheet up to the light and immediately know what I am looking at.  It would be easy to have 5000 images on a drive somewhere and never look at them again, or at least forget about.  Not so with binders full of negatives, or boxes of photographs.

As I was decluttering and moving things around,  and tossing some stuff into the garbage, and putting other items into a box for recycling/donations, I thought about the binder after binder with 35 mm slides that were on the shelves.  At one point, I took one binder off the shelf and most of the slide pages fell out, forcing me to look them over for a bit.  Another binder had slides that I used in a presentation in the early 1980s.  Since all of them were reproductions of line art from publications (remember the blue  "diazo" slides?), they went into the trash.   I went back to the pile of pages that had fallen out from the first binder, and set them aside for working on later.  I'll need to re-examine them closely, and determine the ones are worth saving.  Most of them are from the early 1980s, and are documenting the Botanical Gardens collections.  A few are probably worth scanning and putting online.  A bunch will be tossed because frankly, my photographs were not that good.  Transparency film does not tolerate bad exposures. As I have gone over some of my old files of transparencies, I have also realized that it's only in the past 10 years that I would say that I have become a pretty decent photographer.  Not about technique (improved, certainly) so much as it is about subject and motivation.  I know I see better now, and I don't mean my eyesight.  That translates to more images that have something to say.
old slides in vinyl sleeves, not archival

Back to my cleaning up. Keeping images secure and findable is important.  It is a problem when you have piles of negatives and haven't properly stored them.  If you are spending the time and money to photograph, take the time to at least store your negatives or slides in the Print-File archival pages, label them with at least the date and place they were taken. Adding the camera/lens/developer info is nice but not necessary.

I can go to the shelf and pull out a binder of negatives back to 2000, when I started doing b&w seriously and developing my own film. I cringe a bit at some of those sheets, but I am glad that I have them, as they document my growth as a photographer.  Yes, I still have negatives that go back to 1973, and the subjects I chose are not so different from what I shoot now, but 40+ years later, I think I better understand the why I shoot what I do.
Canon EOS Rebel 2000 - look at the time!


John Talbert said...

From the pictures of your negatives binders, it looks like you don't proof your negatives? Am I seeing that right?

If you don't proof the negatives any particular reason? Too much terrible to fool with? Proof when you print?

I just found your blog & enjoy it very much. I've shot film for forty years.


mfophotos said...


Thanks for your question! I used to print proof sheets up until maybe 10 years ago. Since I scan in the negatives, I have a file that I can look up and go back to the page if I want to print.
Glad that you enjoy the blog.
Best wishes!