So I got into a frustrated discussion about backing up photographs and artwork yesterday. It started because I was running out of memory on my iPhone, which I've been using a lot for everyday photographs.
Thing is, I've been finding it so handy, so easy and such a readily-available tool for capturing things on the fly that it had a ton of images that I belatedly realized that I really want to keep for a long time. Turns out getting the images backed up and off my phone was harder than I had anticipated, and the various options I had for storing them didn't seem very permanent either.
Are the images worth archiving? I guess it depends on your point of view. And for how long do I want to save them and keep them safe? As long as I want to pay for cloud storage? That seems pretty ephemeral, really, and I will admit that I don't really feel quite comfortable with cloud storage, though I have started using it. It's all too... airy and loose.
Hard drive storage is another obvious choice (which I opted for in addition to the cloud) but let's face it, hard drives eventually fail, file formats change and old ones become obsolete. I've already lost artwork from old projects due to the original programs becoming dinosaurs and the file formats no longer accessible. Print outs are another option, though prints also degrade over time and take up a lot of room. So what is it that I want to happen with these multitudes of images that I like so much?
Well, it all led inexorably to a heated discussion about what happens to an artist's work after they die (my fault, since it seemed a natural progression to me). Always a fun topic. What do I expect? I was told (fairly bluntly) that a) I couldn't expect that all of the images I create are worth saving (I knew that already), and b) that after I die, people who knew me would come to go through my stuff, keep a few precious images that they liked, and see what they could sell the rest for, that it happens to all artists who die.
Of course we all die eventually. All of my work would fade into obscurity and oblivion, no doubt more quickly than many other artists because I am not well known or famous or worthy. Worthy of what? I was told "It isn't art unless people see it, so you should instead concentrate your efforts not on trying to find a more secure way of archiving your images, but on getting your work better known so that others would want to preserve it after you're was gone." I think I started yelling things like 'are you shitting me?' and 'fuck you' about that point. Let's just admit that I wasn't exactly a reasoned, rational participant in the discussion at that point, though I'm not even exactly sure why the whole thing pissed me off so much. It's all more or less true, after all. Though I will always hold to the idea that it's art even if there is no audience for it. Having people see the images is ephemeral at best, but the images can still endure.
Humph. So then what do I want to happen to my own body of work? Do I dare to presume to call it a 'body of work'? Are you considered a 'real artist' if you're not famous? Who defines whether you are worthy of having your work preserved? I figure nobody much but me will care, honestly, so it's kind of up to me to save the work if I think it's cool. And I have to try to hang onto the idea that my images, my art is worthy of saving SO HARD.
It just feels like there are so many ways artists, musicians, creative people get told we're silly and not worth treasuring in this society, this culture, this artist-devaluing world we live in. I end up barely hanging on to the idea that my own images are actually unique to me and might capture a sliver of life, a special vision of what the world looks like, a bit of beauty here and there.
Those critical voices, both external and in my head, threaten to drown out every shred of self worth I've ever possessed. They're so insidious, telling me that what I do is nothing, that nobody cares, that we all think we're such special snowflakes and not all of us are, after all, the vast majority of us are doomed to dull mediocrity. That bleak outlook on life is enough to make a person lose what little sanity they may have had.
Well, you know what? Screw those voices. I want to save my own art because I like it and think it's cool that something special was captured from nothing, from a fleeting moment. It doesn't matter any further than that and I'll be looking for any good notions on how to archive stuff so it lasts a damn good long time. Suggestions welcomed.