As I approach the age of 60 years, I am starting to thing about what might become of my work when I am gone.
Now, before you label me as one of those “back in my day” guys, you should know that I remain healthy and happy at my job as a news and sports photographer and staff writer.
But I thought about this extra hard recently because of two occurrences. 1. My young journalist friend Ashlynd visited my office recently, and we talked about the boxes and boxes and boxes of photographic negatives stored under the countertops here. 2. A fellow photographer came to visit recently with the goal of finding some photographic negatives from an event he photographed many years ago, and as a result, he brought down a big plastic tub full of three-ring binders full of negatives.
Neither my work nor his should be relegated to storage. In many cases, my shots were published once in the daily, then packed up neatly in Kodak boxes. That seemed like a sensible plan in the early years of my career. A few of these boxes stored over the period of a few months seemed entirely manageable. But as the years and decades rolled by, those boxes added up.
I certainly set aside many of my best negatives for contest and display, but the bulk of my work, thousands and thousands of images, sit in the dark.
I also think of the millions of images made by news photographers and reporters that might now be in the possession of newspaper/media companies long after their photographers aged out and retired or went to another paper. What plans to these understaffed media companies have for all those images?
I know it’s a lot to ponder, and I don’t know if I have a good answer. Would a historical society be interested in my negatives? Would a college library? The National Archives?
Or am I off base about this? Are the images we made and shared once in the daily newspaper or magazine simply a part of the process of living and being journalists? Have we done enough by witnessing life’s events and sharing them in print?
If you have ideas about the best way to preserve our legacies, I would love to hear them.