Why I Love Film Photography: File and Forget



There are many reasons why I prefer film photography. This is just one of them.

I see two certainties involved with computing:

  1. Hardware failure and data loss with happen at regular intervals.
  2. I will always hate having to back up files. Thinking about backing up those backups as the backup media gets outdated makes me grimace.

I’m not being technophobic. I just prefer when things are simple. A future where the longevity of photographic archive requires me to keep up with the rapid turnover rate of computer hardware and software is not one I want.

I recall an experience where I heard a digital photographer talking about cutting edge, two thousand dollar RAID system he just put in place to keep his many thousands of digital photography files safe. My first thought was that the technology would be laughable in terms of storage capacity in five years time. We’ll have a newer faster hard drive interface, and the discs will be able to spin at 200,000 more RPM. I image that he will be doing whole thing over again to keep up with the technology.

Meanwhile, here is all the backing up I’ve had to do over the past ten years.

Ten Years of Photography

With film, I can just file and forget. Each binder and a pack of one-hundred negative sleeves runs about $30 and will never be outdated technology. No software drivers are ever going to be unavailable which will leave them unreadable. In ten more years, I imagine that the only thing that will really change is how tall the stack of binders is. So simple it hurts.

You just wait till your house burns down!

While film storage is incredibly durable, I understand that it isn’t indestructible. My grandfather’s slides from the 1950s were not stored with much care, and as a result they’ve all been destroyed by fungus.

The other great threat towards my file and forget method of film archiving is of course a house fire. Luckily for us though, house fires aren’t that common. I can’t say that I even know a single person who has lost all of their possessions to a house fire. Yet, I’ve experienced hard drive failure many times in my life. The worst of which was a power surge back in 2001 which caused some of the internals on my motherboard and hard drive to explode. Literally.

Just as most oil painters wouldn’t switch to a Wacam tablet and Photoshop to keep their work more immune to a fire, I’m not going to use it as a fear point for switching. Any digital photographer who isn’t making off site backups is sitting in the same boat as use film photographers anyways.

Contingency Plan

I think I might add a small layer of fire protection though. I think a reasonable contingency plan would be to get a program such as SyncBackPro* and have it monitor the folders that my scanned files get saved to. As I scan my negatives, the files would automatically be uploaded to my web server for backup. Then in the event of total negative loss due to a natural disaster, at least part of my archive will be retrievable as a second generation copy.

*It is now 2016 and I backup all my scans using Amazon Drive