September 10th, 10:53 AM. Upload images to FTP for proofing cover.
There comes a time in your photographic career when you wake up and realize that your archive needs major attention. The challenge of keeping an archive organized and current becomes a daunting task for photographers from commercial to fine art. Maybe it’s from seeing stacks of old hard drives nestled neatly in boxes that weigh down your shelves, or remembering shoots from the days of 2 MP digital cameras and 4×5 film that left you with boxes of negatives stored out of sight, or in your mother’s recently flooded basement many miles away—you realize you have to do something. It’s the elephant in the room that photographers either shy away from or tackle head on.
Like many of my contemporaries, I juggled managing a studio, shooting, traveling, and trying to have a life of my own. My archive ended up taking a back burner for the first few years of my career. It was not until I had a full time staff and space to delegate exclusively for negative and hard drive storage that I began to tackle stacks of negatives and aging drives. My studio team and I came up with a system to store and locate negatives: year, job/subject, and client. Keep it simple. Over the years, through the transition from film to digital, we kept that system in place, logging it into a document and labeling boxes to match. Occasionally we get a request for images taken back in the film days. Locating and retrieving these negatives could be the difference of making a few hundred dollars to a grand or nothing. A well organized archive is like have stocks in your financial portfolio. You never know what will happen and how a photograph’s value will grow in the future. The archive is your potential gold mine: the more you shoot, the more possibilities there are for future image sales, gallery shows, books, and other creative pursuits.
This month I had a request from my syndication agent, John Arborio, at Corbis for a shoot done in 1999 of Trent Reznor for TIME magazine. The shoot was conducted in NYC, at the construction site for the world renowned Milk Studios. While there were some scans in syndication, they were done over 10 years ago with much less advanced technology than the drum scans we have now, not suitable for the Fader cover. Fader is one of my favorite magazines for urban and creative culture. Whenever I go to the newsstands, I always find my eye drawn to their covers. I knew the level of photography and respect for the image was well worth me driving to our secure off-site location to locate the negatives, rush them over to The Icon for high resolution scans, and then FTP them to Fader within 24 hours—of course, on NY time.
While flipping through boxes looking for the Reznor negatives, I was shocked to see photo shoots I had completely forgotten about. Just in 1999, I shot 61 assignments ranging from album covers, magazine editorials, and movie posters for Miramax films. I quickly got lost back in time seeing young celebrities captured on contact sheets and remembering the good old days.
The adventure into my archive was like opening a time capsule: seeing my growth as a visual artist, and remembering how shoots used to be. I can see my youthfulness and excitement in my old images. Although our industry is quickly changing because of digital technology, it was a great comfort to see there was still life left in my film archive. Film is not dead, it just needs to be scanned.