John Malcolm Andrews

The images painted by Paleolithic man in France can be seen and enjoyed 17,000 years later. I sometimes wonder if we will be able to view the images contained in digital files (especially RAW files) 17 years from now. So why convert physical images (prints, slides and negatives) to digital files?

  • Firstly, convenience: Only viewers who have access to the original can examine physical images. Duplication to allow wide access is difficult and expensive. That changes when the images are converted to digital files that can be duplicated repeatedly without degradation and offered to anyone interested at virtually no cost.
  • Secondly, preservation: Few slides, prints or negatives have been stored under archival conditions. Digital copies allow me to preserve memories before the visible record is lost to attacking molds or decaying paper.

The images below span the last 120 years. Some, like the wedding photograph can be dated exactly (December 21, 1944). The color images from Singapore, Iran, Norway and Saudi Arabia can be dated from memory with reasonable accuracy (1963, 1977, 1983, 1993). Those from the “family album” and the photograph of the scholar require more guesswork. The scholar is my father when he was a Chorister at the London Choir School. The boys sang until their voice “broke” so I assume this photo was taken when he was about 10-12 years old. If so, that dates the image to about 1935.

The little girls are my great aunts. Edith was the youngest and according to her passport she was born in 1884. The Belfast photographer, William Abernathy, received the Royal Warrant in 1900 and included it on his photo-cards after that date. So, the image of Edith and her aunt Georgina dates after 1900 while the Abernathy portraits of the young Edith and my grandmother, Sarah, were probably taken before 1900. Trying to guess children’s ages is difficult but it is reasonable to assume that these five images span the period from around 1889 to about 1902.