Catherine Hall Studios | A Photographic Evolution

Negatives.jpg

I've never considered myself a hoarder but when it comes to photography, I may need to re-evaluate this self-perception. I still have my first camera along with my first negatives and prints from my very first school assignments and the beginning of my photography career.

I always wonder what other photographers do with their old work such as negatives from the beginning of their career.  How long should I really keep this stuff? Sometimes you just don't feel very proud of old photographs. Of course I have learned a lot since taking my first images, and it is nice to track my improvement, but I really just dislike some of my earliest work. At the same time though, I just don't have the heart to throw the negatives out. I mean, at one point I was really proud of these images!

My internal debate has manifested itself in an excessive pile of boxes holding old work. I know I need to do something but I just can't decide! So, help me clear my conscience. Do you throw all your old stuff away? 

7 comments

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  1. Box them up, give them to a friend to store…. in one year reclaim / or burn. Out of sight may not be out of mind.

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  2. Darren

    You should do what you like, but I’d at least keep or scan the negatives — they take up less space and once those are gone, the images are lost forever. One of my most prized material possessions is a collection of my grandfather’s slides and negatives which include color Kodakchromes from as far back as the 1940′s. Some are simply amazing photos, but I love even the junky ones. It’s also great to see your progress — There was a show at the SF MOMA which included a collection of prints Ansel Adams did from the same negatives decades apart. It was amazing to see how his dark room skills alone had progressed during his lifetime! Good luck deciding what to do! :-) Darren

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  3. Not sure in your area or the cost but I have seen scenarios at local photography stores where you can buy an empty box size at the store for a price and fill it with as many photos as possible and they will convert to digital format. So for example buy a 4′x4′x4′ box, fill it for $99 and they will convert. Just a thought but I myself would not throw away. Good luck with decision.

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  4. CatherineHall

    i was all set on burning them after Ian’s comment, but now after reading Darren’s am confused! I think i will do what Joe says. Does anyone know a place like this in SF area?

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  5. I’m with Joe & Darren. Don’t throw away. Archive digitally or just keep your negatives. Those are wonderful memories to pass down to other generations!

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  6. Darren

    Sorry, I just meant I wouldn’t destroy them! I’m not an analog purist — I’ve been scanning my grandfather’s negatives so they can be better preserved and stored more easily. It’s a labor of love for me, but paying someone would be much easier! :-)

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