Create an archive of your creative work – Organizing and digitizing your art doesn’t need to be a daunting task. By following some simple steps this process becomes easily achievable. Most artists/photographers have had the experience of looking at the masses of work produced over a career and wondered where to begin? This post will answer that question with an easy process.
As a creator of images a good exercise is to ask yourself how would I characterize my most important work? Was my body of work created primarily on an assignment basis, like an editorial photographer? Am I a fine artist that created work for exhibition and sale? Am I documentarian whose work is centered around a theme or story? By the way you could also be the documentarian of your family or organization.
The process of self identifying who you are as an artist/photographer will greatly assist you in the editing process. For example, if you are a fine art photographer that has an extensive body of black and white portrait photography you can easily eliminate all those color slides from your trip to Yosemite. Start by selecting work for your archive that is closest to the core of how you identify yourself as an artist/photographer.
The key is to start the archiving process with a clearly defined purpose. In the previous example those vacation slides didn’t make the edit. However they maybe included in a smaller archive you create later specifically for your own edification, but for now stick to primary objective and ignore the rest.
1. Make a Schedule with Deadlines
Get out the calendar and set up concrete dates. Just saying that you are going to devote a day, a week, or some weekends won’t get it done. Be specific and set a date for specific goals. For example: collect all materials in one location by June 3, compile best materials by June 22, set up appointment for digitization with Digital Silver Imaging by June 23, add supporting materials to existing work to be digitized by July 12, etc. Don’t get side tracked. You need to resist the temptation to make this a stroll down memory lane. You have a job to do, now get going.
2. The Best First
Begin with your best work. Start by Identifying the film and any prints of that work. Why the prints? The print maybe the most archival medium in your archive. The print also shows how you interpreted the image. This even applies to an image that was created digitally.
3. Series and Stories
Identify the work by story, project, body of work. For example if you are a journalist, identify the stories you worked on and start with the most important (as you perceive it) and don’t neglect supporting images or documents. For the fine artist use the same approach. For example if your fine art work has had thematic connections or subjects use that as a starting point.
4. You Don’t Need to Archive Everything
We are awash in images. Your archive does not need to have every analog asset digitized (see step 2). By all means make sure that your film and art are properly stored but making selections is key to the process. If you are a commercial artist quickly put aside jobs you completed to pay the bills.
Photographers use their cameras as a way to see the world so most shoot continuously. Unless it is part of your best work, or an important project, skip over the images from family, trips, events that are not related to your best work. The exception is an archive created specifically to document your family, even in this case you do not need to archive 20 images from that family picnic in 1972.
Documentation, Keywords, Metadata
Trying to complete all the documentation before you begin the digitization process is a monumental mistake in most cases. Film is not the most archival medium, and even black and white film often starts to deteriorate in as little as a decade. You can always add the documentation, keywords, and metadata after the film, prints and artwork have been digitized.
The discussion of documentation can fill volumes. Again consider what is the most important and relevant information in relation to the nature of your archive. The one thing that is always required is a creation date and a title. A title can be as simple as a single name or a dozen or more identifying words.
Keywords and metadata not only identify your digital files but they also make your archive searchable. These issues become very important if you plan on selling images online and you need a large searchable archive as stock photography. Included below is a link to an article on understanding metadata to continue your research further.
The bottom line is digitize first, add data second. Included with this post are some useful links including the Photographic Information Record Form or PIR. This is a standard form that many museums and photo archives use to provide background and historical data on an image. The PIR is in PDF format so it can be completed and stored digitally with your archive.
Storing Your Digitized Archive
The one thing you can count on is that your hard drive will eventually fail. That is why it is essential that your archive be replicated and stored in at least two geographically separate locations. In many cases it is also useful to consider an online storage solution in addition to your hard drives.
Companies like Drawbridge Digital offer sophisticated storage and access solutions for digital archives. A provider like Drawbridge Digital can make your archive searchable, provide access permission, and redundant backups. Even simple cloud storage is better than no off-site storage at all.
Like any task if you break it down into reasonable steps it becomes achievable. The caveat is don’t delay! You can always add more to your archive once you’ve digitized your best work. If you want more information on the digitization process please watch our video and don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.
Photographic Information Record Form (PIR)
Understanding Metadata for Photographers
Appraiser’s Association (Find an appraiser to value your archive)