And throwing it all away. Obsolete media.
All my original images will be digital from here on.
In looking through 40+ years of accumulated physical images, I am reminded of the history and optimism anticipated in each and every image that is going into the trash. As an artist I adored the quality of the images and took pride in being prepared when needed. It was a badge of honor at a professional level. I remember the care and investment of time and money that went into the composition, processing, selection, cataloging, storing, organizing, and maintaining these visual manifestations of my craft skill and artistic vision. Now I am taking these beloved slides and photos out of their neat and tidy boxes, taking careful inventory to keep one, just one copy of the best image, and dumping the rest into the dumpster.
But the physical media has become a burden.
Fortunately, the "information" of these images will live on when converted to digital media. My daughter helped me realize that companies large and small deal with this legacy cost" all the time. They have archives of information that could be valuable to current or future users. Information companies like Weather Underground choose to preserve past weather information and make it accessible on their website. They realize that the history of weather information is valuable, but stored data must also be compatible with newer digital interfaces. Researchers using newer or different platforms need the archived information to be compatible to gain the benefits of analyzing long term trends over decades of accumulated information in ways that were not previously possible.
Artists also may have a legacy of information or objects. At what point does old work become out dated inventory?
I look at it differently. Old work has potential in future exhibition opportunities. It could even be my retirement income as I have witnessed in the revival of interest in mid-century modern jewelry. Important painters often kept their best work increased in value.
Museums are the consummate examples of legacy information and the costs of maintaining archives. They store objects and information indefinitely with the expectation that value will be realized well into the future.
Why did I finally decide to throw away all these slides and photos? I was reading a book about behavioral economics … “Misbehaving - The Making of Behavioral Economics" by Richard Thaler. The book discusses a relatively new field in economics observing how many financial decisions are not made on a purely rational basis.
One financial concept struck home for me - "sunk costs." The book made clear that my slides and photos that are no longer in a useful form (and all the time and money I invested in them) are "sunk costs." Keeping them any longer would just cost more storage expense. Businesses often describe this storage expense as "carrying cost" or inventory cost. However, if the images (or any other inventory items) are not or cannot be used any longer, they have no current or future value. To use up storage space in my cramped studio is just more wasted money.
Every artist and maker has legacy information in their older work that represents their career and their credibility. The construction of my new website caused me to re-examine how I needed to make my images (my "information") more accessible for current and future use. In the past three weeks, I have invested a great deal of time to find one, just one best copy of each image to digitize for the future.
I see my new website as a new and more accessible form of my work -- a new catalog that enables more people to more easily access my images and for me to connect with more opportunities. I look forward to adding images to my website that were not digital. Images of inspiration and work in progress could be interesting to a wider audience.
I took great professional pride in my inventory of slides and black & white photos to be ready for opportunities. Now the ongoing value of my "information" (the intrinsic substance of my images) through this new digital media greatly expands how I can gain the attention of others and be prepared for many more opportunities. My new website is adaptive to phones, tablets and computers. Using a template site (which I resisted for years) means that it will be a stable format for further changes in technology.
Despite my acute awareness of my past investments, I see this transition as a revitalization of my legacy information. Take a moment to look at my new website. Critique the content. Find mistakes. Bookmark it for later updates. Lots more information is coming in future months. This is a work in progress, a new future, a new year.
This post was updated on December 13th, 2021.