Shared Stories: Organizing my Photographs

Daniela Kanz describes a 21st century problem that many of us now struggle with.  In the digital age, the problem of organizing our photographs has taken on new dimensions.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Daniela Kanz

Dealing with all the things I have accumulated over the years - especially my photographs - led me to sort through my picture CDs and floppies.

As a youngster, I dreamed of becoming a photographer. I loved my Brownie Kodak camera. I felt that true photographers did their own developing of film. I attempted a class in photography that offered instruction in this effort and soon learned that I loved taking pictures, but did not care for the scientific part. Mixing the chemicals scared me. 

Over the years, I took hundreds - literally hundreds of pictures. My husband used to complain, "Do you have to take a whole roll of film on EVERY occasion. Won't just a few snapshots due?"  Developing my film became a ‘budget buster,’ and I just could not bear to throw any away - even the not-so-good ones.

In 1987 my aunt passed away in Palm Beach, Florida. As her only living relative, I went with my husband to Florida to make arrangements. While going through her possessions, I found several picture albums of hers and wanted to take them home to California. 

As I looked at them, I whined to my husband, "How can I get all these on the plane with me?"
 My logical husband asked me, "How important is it to have the photographs in the albums? Could you remove them so that they could be less bulky and more easily brought on the plane?"

I replied that would be an excellent solution and began to remove all the photographs from the pages of the albums, placed them in a zip lock bag, and easily packed them in my suitcase. Ever since that experience, I never worried about getting photographs put in an album.

When I found out that my pictures could be put on a floppy disc and later on CD, by the developer (whether a mail order photographic film processing company or the local drug store), I believed in backing my pictures up digitally. 

By then I had a computer system with a 386 Intel microprocessor at home, thanks to my inheritance from my Aunt.

I have moved several times over the years and each time the collection of photographs has grown. Not only did I have all my pictures, and all the pictures I brought home from Florida, I had the photographs I inherited from my parents, my grandmother, and my mother-in-law.   

The pictures moved in huge Rubbermaid boxes and became unwieldy. That is when I came up with the idea of digitizing the hard copies. I admit the ongoing endeavor is never ending and I still have all the hard copies.

Throwback Thursday on Facebook became a good place to put some of those digitized pictures to share with my family. My eldest daughter looks forward to seeing what I might post. 

Often the pictures are of her children when they were little. My grandchildren are now 18 and 21. I spend more time looking at pictures I have already digitized than digitizing more. 

Recently I happened to run into Google Pictures (previously known as Picasa) and found some pictures I posted there that I forgot about. Then I remembered my Yahoo Picture website Flickr and my Shutterfly website. I also have pictures and other files on my web-based file hosting service (Dropbox). My digital picture library is becoming as burdensome as my hard copies.

So, no, I am not very organized. It is more like organized chaos. That does not stop me from having the goal to accomplish the feat one of these days. I just need to be a little more diligent on working the project.