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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Is digital display enough?
Old 08-01-2016   #1
Bill Pierce
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Is digital display enough?

Here’s a simple question for the digital age. It’s one that applies to family albums and professional portfolios. Is it enough to store your photos digitally on discs, cards, flash memory and the “cloud,” looking at them on computer screens, pads and celphones? The answer will be different for different people; so, what do you think and why?
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Old 08-01-2016   #2
Ko.Fe.
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We are using both at home.

Big screen for PC in the dining room has slide show of nine thousandths family pictures. It is great to see pictures from eighties and recent ones.

We have albums as well and it is great to look at them. Many photos were printed as they can't be printed anymore. Some are from 18.. something. Some are from the end of analog C-41 negs printing era. We also have family portraits printed in the darkroom and in the digi labs in frames on the walls. 8x10 mostly. I recently printed one in the darkroom and another was just printed from the scan, because I can't print it good under enlarger.

My mother-in-law have many of those at her apartment as well. And my parents, relatives and friends have online access to full sized digital copies.
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Old 08-01-2016   #3
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No its not enough.
Every year, I make a family photo album following the timeline.
My kids enjoy them very much. So far I have made 7 books and I will keep doing that. I guess that if I only stored photos digitally, we would have not looked at those old photos anymore.
In short, I like the tag line of a member here "a photo is not a photo until printed"


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Old 08-01-2016   #4
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It's fine for snapshots and to show your vacation pictures but I don't consider it a serious way to display photos. I print photos I feel strongly about. There's nothing quite as pleasant or satisfying as creating something of substance.
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Old 08-01-2016   #5
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Bill,

Even on my calibrated EIZO dimmed down to 50 Lux in a dark room the screen cannot reveal the shadow detail that are in my prints.

Also for archival quality it is prints or negatives.

In someone's avitar they state, "It is not a photograph until it is a print." This is true for me.

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Old 08-01-2016   #6
mpaniagua
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Quote:
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It's fine for snapshots and to show your vacation pictures but I don't consider it a serious way to display photos. I print photos I feel strongly about. There's nothing quite as pleasant or satisfying as creating something of substance.
Agree. "substance" is the keyword. Digital is practical but seems pretty insubstantial to me, so IMHO, nothing beats a printed framed photo either on a wall, desk or kitchen . It has an ageless element to it that digital lacks, cause once you turn off the power or run out of batteries, the picture is gone.
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Old 08-01-2016   #7
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Enough? Not for me.

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Old 08-01-2016   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Here’s a simple question for the digital age. It’s one that applies to family albums and professional portfolios. Is it enough to store your photos digitally on discs, cards, flash memory and the “cloud,” looking at them on computer screens, pads and celphones? The answer will be different for different people; so, what do you think and why?
No. I find that no matter how much fun it is to look at photos on-line, on a television, on a display, on a smartphone, the game changes instantly when you hand someone a print. Small or large doesn't matter: the nature of the interaction between the viewer and the image is different when they hold a print. A print becomes a 'precious' thing, unlike an image on a display; it is valued more and looked at with more thoughtfulness as a print.

I've seen this over and over again since first I started putting high resolution images on displays in the middle 1980s. The viewing medium changes the nature of the image.

G
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Old 08-01-2016   #9
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No, I prefer to make books at the very least. I have relaxed though regarding showing images digitally.
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Old 08-01-2016   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Here’s a simple question for the digital age. It’s one that applies to family albums and professional portfolios.
For me and for these two narrowly limited uses, digital is enough.

Quote:
Is it enough to store your photos digitally on discs, cards, flash memory and the “cloud,” looking at them on computer screens, pads and celphones?...
"Storage" yes, except I do not consider "cloud storage" to be a viable storage solution at this time, at least for me.

Viewing, on the other hand, it another thing entirely. Viewing the occasional family snapshot on a monitor is fine. For me, artwork must be printed and displayed.
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Old 08-01-2016   #11
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Prints hang in my house. Digital on my wife's facebook.

I guess we have to live with both, but it feels like I'm actually "living" with my prints. They're on almost every wall
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Old 08-01-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
No. I find that no matter how much fun it is to look at photos on-line, on a television, on a display, on a smartphone, the game changes instantly when you hand someone a print. Small or large doesn't matter: the nature of the interaction between the viewer and the image is different when they hold a print. A print becomes a 'precious' thing, unlike an image on a display; it is valued more and looked at with more thoughtfulness as a print.

I've seen this over and over again since first I started putting high resolution images on displays in the middle 1980s. The viewing medium changes the nature of the image.

G
I agree completely on the special charm of prints. But a web site, blog, or other online medium allows the remarkable potential to share with friends and family near and far, as well as with strangers across oceans and continents and cultures. We've never had that opportunity before. (Not that the world gives a hoot about my photos. But still....)

Both are wonderful and I wouldn't want to be without either.

John
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Old 08-01-2016   #13
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I prefer prints, but enjoy the sharing. It's a blessing to be able to see pictures from everywhere in the world and in the comfort of my office chair.
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Old 08-01-2016   #14
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For me personally I always feel whats the point of taking pictures if no one else can see them, for my family pics thats why I have a website but sometimes it still nice to make a print for the wall.
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Old 08-01-2016   #15
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Perhaps am "21st century digital boy" (although not a boy anymore). But new smartphone screens are more enjoyable to me than Fuji Instax "print" or a blurb book.
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Old 08-01-2016   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwolf View Post
I agree completely on the special charm of prints. But a web site, blog, or other online medium allows the remarkable potential to share with friends and family near and far, as well as with strangers across oceans and continents and cultures. We've never had that opportunity before. (Not that the world gives a hoot about my photos. But still....)

Both are wonderful and I wouldn't want to be without either.

John
I agree. I can hardly imagine being without Flickr and other web sites at this point, it's so much a part of my photographic process. Connections to friends and family, connections to the larger audience who see my work .. For both of these things, digital display is essential today. But ...

The question however was whether digital display is enough. From my experience, for my work, and to fulfill my intent, I can only respond "No." What I try to do with photography requires additional display forms for exhibition, personal use, and so forth.

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Old 08-01-2016   #17
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A slightly different perspective, not about preferences but about experience, necessity, invention and viewer response.

A few years ago I took part in a 3 person exhibit, where my wall space was the most restricted, but was also in the central lobby/walk through. I put up 10-12 prints, but also set up 4 laptops and one 24" Apple monitor to run 4 projects of 30-50 images as 3-second slide dissolves.

At the opening, viewers of my work tended to cluster around the monitors/slide shows before inspecting the prints (if they looked at the prints, that is). Most watched at least one project, some watched all 5. Did I imagine people would gravitate to the screens? Yes, of course in this screen culture! Was I pleased that people "paged through" an entire book of images, or several books worth? Yes. Did I sell any prints? Yes, but not off the wall; a few people selected images from one or another screen project to have printed.

I do have enough frames/mattes for a show of 6-24 prints of various sizes, and they mostly live at home with favorite images. But if I could do a show with one or two large but portable wall-mounted monitors, I wouldn't hesitate to make that my exhibitionist M.O.
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Old 08-01-2016   #18
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A slightly different perspective, not about preferences but about experience, necessity, invention and viewer response.

A few years ago I took part in a 3 person exhibit, where my wall space was the most restricted, but was also in the central lobby/walk through. I put up 10-12 prints, but also set up 4 laptops and one 24" Apple monitor to run 4 projects of 30-50 images as 3-second slide dissolves.

At the opening, viewers of my work tended to cluster around the monitors/slide shows before inspecting the prints (if they looked at the prints, that is). Most watched at least one project, some watched all 5. Did I imagine people would gravitate to the screens? Yes, of course in this screen culture! Was I pleased that people "paged through" an entire book of images, or several books worth? Yes. Did I sell any prints? Yes, but not off the wall; a few people selected images from one or another screen project to have printed.

I do have enough frames/mattes for a show of 6-24 prints of various sizes, and they mostly live at home with favorite images. But if I could do a show with one or two large but portable wall-mounted monitors, I wouldn't hesitate to make that my exhibitionist M.O.
Robert,

Thanks for sharing this. I have my gal's old IPAD. For seeing lots of images the display is a good way to go.

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Old 08-01-2016   #19
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A slightly different perspective, not about preferences but about experience, necessity, invention and viewer response.

...
Indeed! Having 'live' displays does attract attention and at least gets viewers interested in the work you've done. it is why I have multiple iPads, so that I have plenty of options for what to carry and how to show work.

I know one wedding photography outfit that delivers the wedding album in print form, of course, but includes an iPad with a customized 'live' display presentation as well.

G
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Old 08-01-2016   #20
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I have my own website where I post my photos. In my home, I have a small listening area for my stereo, where I have several prints hanging on the wall. I am about to venture into the self-publishing world, which is where I think the future lies for photographers- photo books.
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both prints on the wall and digital display are needed in different circumstances
Old 08-01-2016   #21
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both prints on the wall and digital display are needed in different circumstances

There are times when prints on the wall are the only thing that will suffice. But there are also times when a digital display can be used.

I did photo exhibits in two different galleries in Cuba in May and June. There is no question that framed prints were the only acceptable form of presentation.

Day after tomorrow (tomorrow is a travel day) I will do a slide show, 2 minutes 22 seconds long with 41 photos presented in a 15" digital frame for the local people where I live in Cuba. It is of the big May 1st workers day parade in the local community and basically is just of the local people. They are thrilled to see photos of themselves in such a patriotic event. There is no way I would print all of these, frame them, and transport the prints to Cuba. Since internet is very limited, very slow, and $2 per hour there that is not an option. But transporting a flash drive and showing everything on a digital frame placed in different facilities works well.

see the slide show at http://bobmichaels.org/Primero%20de%...16%20Cueto.mp4
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Old 08-01-2016   #22
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Digital picture frames can hold thousands depending on thumb drive.

Modern TV also take a thumb drive.

Print the best and make an album.
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Old 08-01-2016   #23
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Good photos, but the show is too fast for me to enjoy. You said 2 minutes 22 seconds long with 41 photos. I would have aimed at about 4 minutes.

Assuming each individual photo is good enough within the context (which also means not too much repetition), I have found 5-6 seconds per photo to work quite well for most viewers. It gives time to take each photo in and remember them without killing the interest of the less patient viewers. About six seconds nicely allows for more than one photo at once, too, for fill shots or for effect (especially if the show is the end product). I tend to go much longer than that mainly for very wide panoramas where it's often best to pan slowly across the shot.
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Old 08-02-2016   #24
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Good photos, but the show is too fast for me to enjoy. You said 2 minutes 22 seconds long with 41 photos. I would have aimed at about 4 minutes..................
Lasse: thanks for your comments about the timing and moving too fast. This has a specific target audience, the 13,999 people who live in Cueto and know everyone in the photos. So it simply may be too fast.Otherwise I could have told the story in a very few photos. While I always want to be on the side of leaving them wishing for more rather than being bored if I do err.

I keep working on alternate digital presentations that tell the story better than simple photos. Here is one on the economics of raising your own pig in Cuba. http://bobmichaels.org/Cuban%20pig%2...0economics.pdf

I am going to Fidel's big 90th birthday celebration in his home town, Biran, which is only about 5 miles from where we live (me part time). My Cuban significant other will be one of the speakers. So, I may try to do something for that event as well. No clue what that will be.

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Old 08-02-2016   #25
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Beautiful photo Bob.
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Old 08-02-2016   #26
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Bob, I agree with Lasse that it's too fast. I do a lot of these and have found that for a single-subject photo fast works OK. But your pictures are rich in content and I felt I did not have time to take it in much on most images, even scanning for objective content. And for an event like this folks like to linger a bit to look for themselves or others they know.

Nice job, though. This is a wonderful way to share a series. And it's really enjoyable to put one together.

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Old 08-02-2016   #27
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I just use the pause button...
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Old 08-02-2016   #28
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No its not enough.
...
This ^









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Old 08-02-2016   #29
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My photos are displayed in a random slide show on a 23" monitor in the room we use the most, I have a PC dedicated to this show and it is on all the time.

The same photos are also in an online album our families can access for viewing.

However, I have long thought that digital only isn't good enough and to this end I have started printing the best of the photos to keep in physical albums, as I used to in my film days. I have always printed the best of the best and hung them in the house, not that I have many I consider good enough for enlarging!
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Old 08-10-2016   #30
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Is digital display enough?
No.
I was chatting about photos with a friend and in order to show me a shot he'd taken, he picked up an iPad, and quickly scrolled to the photo he wanted me to see.
It was dim, shiny, and the color(8500ºK or whatever it was was) completely mismatched the existing light in the room. An awful way to see a photo.
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Old 08-11-2016   #31
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Is digital display enough?
No.
I was chatting about photos with a friend and in order to show me a shot he'd taken, he picked up an iPad, and quickly scrolled to the photo he wanted me to see.
It was dim, shiny, and the color(8500ºK or whatever it was was) completely mismatched the existing light in the room. An awful way to see a photo.
I think this is at least half your friends fault.
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Old 08-11-2016   #32
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Well it is sure enough for friends.

As for prints, no gallery representation, so not sure what I would do with prints other than put more of them in my print drawers. Honestly kind of disheartening.

Books are great, and require no digital maintenance. They have become the 21st century equivalent of traditional photo albums.
Fred,

Next Wednesday I have a curator coming to visit my public storage unit to view artwork. I have paintings from the early 80's and a 40x50 shipping container for prints stored there as well as a full darkroom.

It seems this non-profit, "No longer Empty" does these pop-up exhibitions in vacant spaces all around the city, and earlier in the summer I got solicited via e-mail to submit for a possible group show that will open in October and run for 10 days.

I am currently one of 18 artists that will have "storage visits" and will be videotaped interviewed. Out of the 18 it will be culled down to ten artists that will be exhibited in October at the Manhattan Ministorage on Spring Street in SoHo.

Check out 5 examples I submited at www.FreshOutOfStorage.com.

I decided to follow the housing bubble with the idea to "print big and some rich guy will buy it." LOL. My crazy idea seems to be working.

Print sizes are 20x30 on 24x36 paper, and 24x36 on 30x40 paper.

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Old 08-11-2016   #33
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i would say no but I realize that it has been over a year since I have printed anything. I guess I am now a digital slob.
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Old 08-11-2016   #34
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No, screens aren't enough. They suffice for most of my digital work, but the black and white film shots deserve traditional darkroom prints and that's what I do. Some I keep, rotating the ones on display at home and at work, and some I give away. Luddites rule.
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Old 08-11-2016   #35
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I really enjoy making prints of my stronger images (Quadtone Rip with a really nice split tone curve). I have a couple of wires strung across above my desk and hang prints with clothes pins. Sadly, I have no printer right now... 3800 died. I will replace it with a P800 in January or if i win the lottery. If I didn't make the prints, the images would stay buried on my hard drive. I feel it adds more purpose to the process of making images.
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Old 08-19-2016   #36
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I have to say that, for me, digital display is not enough. Some minor reasons - (1) When I put a jpeg on the web or in an email, it looks great on my monitor. But, since no one adheres to some universal monitor standard, it can look pretty awful to some folks on other computers. (2) I love to make postcards and send them to my friends. Of course, the postcards are actually small proof prints made before a run of larger prints. But I don’t tell the postcard recipients that. (3) Galleries and museums aren’t interested in jpgs on a monitor, but sign some prints and get old enough that there is not going to be an unlimited supply of prints and their interest perks up.

Now for the big reason. Digital imaging is relatively new, and the way of storing those images is constantly evolving and changing. Whether they be scanned film images or images from a digital camera, I have stored digital images on zip drives, CDs, DVDs and all manner of things that can’t be read by my current computer. (And, sadly, not all of those images have been transferred to a medium that my current computer can read.)

Currently, I store images on large auxiliary disc drives. I suspect those will be replaced by solid state drives which will eventually be replaced by something else. And the older storage systems will become less and less compatible with our current computers.

More important, even if you update all your images onto whatever storage device you use, it won’t look like a picture. When you’re gone, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to look at some rectangular thing and say, “Look, pictures of the family…” or “Look at these beautiful landscapes.” or “Look at these ugly pictures of a war.” They’ll probably put that rectangular thing in the trash.

So I make prints, lots of them.
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