I have several boxes in the basement of my house, each one stuffed with photographs from various times in my life. These boxes and their contents have been gathering dust for some time, and I realize that digital photography will prevent any new boxes from ever being added in the future.
So what will become of these old photos? Are they going to get tossed aside at some point? I’m sure that will be their ultimate fate. I’m certainly not taking any of them to my grave, because I won’t have a grave anywhere to begin with. Sorting through these things will be done by my wife, or my children, or whoever it is that looks after my things after I’m gone. And they won’t know anything at all about the story that each of these photos could tell. So that’s why I’m starting this.
I’m calling this the Digitization Project within my own mind. I’ll never finish it, or even make that much headway in it before I die or lose interest. But these images, once they’re out there on the internet, will live on in some way. Throw the pictures away when I’m gone, but at least a few of them will persist in the digital realm.
The first print-to-digital transfer was taken circa 1991, in an apartment building on the North Side of Chicago. The fan in the window looks new, and I’m sitting on the first bed that I ever owned. The white bathrobe is long gone, and I’ve put on some weight and some decades since then. The face is hard to make out, but it’s a much younger version of the one who’s typing this out.
I owned just a few things back then, and paying off my college loans was only just starting to kick in. I hadn’t used, or even heard of, email or the internet before. I didn’t own a car, and walked to a train or a bus whenever I needed to go somewhere. The thought of getting married or having a family one day hadn’t yet entered my mind, either. Those things would all come my way, eventually.
Any discussion of the future with this guy would have been an enormous waste of time. I was young and on my own, for the first time in my life. You can’t tell this from my face, but it was very exciting.
The years in between the picture’s creation, and its transference to digital form, have been many, and their meanings are not always clear. Rod Stewart once sang that “Youth’s a mask, but it don’t last.” From looking at this picture, I would have to agree with him.
This picture can, and no doubt will, be thrown away some day. When and why that will happen isn’t so very important to me now. But I’ve managed to get a jump on the process, by preserving this image for whoever might care to see it some day. And, thanks to my scanner and the internet, there’s at least one place where I’ll be 22 forever. I’ll certainly take that.
P.S. I’m writing this as though I’ve been diagnosed with something, and have a limited time left to live. The first part is not true–I’m healthy so far as I know–but the second part is completely accurate. I’ll die someday, and maybe it’s this week and maybe it’s in thirty years. I’ll eventually find out what the answer is. But until then, there’s things I want to say. Lots and lots of things.