I shoot in RAW, but storing all your photos in RAW seems a little risky. I have albums of the past, in black and white, from my parents. They are very low quality images, but they don’t seem to have deteriorated. At least, they look ok. We know that some medieval painting have withstood the tooth of time quite well, but many painters in subsequent times created works that already started falling apart in their own lifetime. I have a lot of slides from the film era that have deteriorated terribly. Most of my prints on good photo paper are ok, though many are beginning to show some fading.

Digital images should not deteriorate, but there are many question marks. As I said in the beginning RAW may not stay readable for a long time. Probably certain formats like tiff and jpeg are more reliable. Interesting is the possibility of converting to DNG, a RAW format created by Adobe that you could compare to PDF. It supposedly retains all the RAW parameters of your camera. And by the way, there are so many RAW formats of different cameras that any photo software will not read on one or more. MacOS has a large stock of RAW converters, but doesn’t read the Olympus Hires RAW format. Many photo processing programs rely on the Apple RAW machine, which means they cannot read any file that machine doesn’t understand. Other photo software have their own RAW converters and you can be sure they will not be able to read certain RAW formats.

But there is also the problem of reliability of media: hard drives and clouds. We know floppies have become difficult to read and I don’t have any idea what I’m missing there. I may have some 30 hard disks, and 7 of them are defective. I know there is one trip I made to Rio de Janeiro of which the pictures are gone. GOOOOOOONE. No idea what happened to them. No idea what else has disappeared without my knowing. Dropbox, Google drive, Apple iCloud? Are they going to be around in another 10 years? I cannot guarantee it.

In the middle ages copying a book was done by hand. A painting by Vermeer could take him 9 months to create. Mechanical (and digital) reproduction, pace Benjamin, has altered the world. But how about the longevity of all these copies? Frankly speaking we don’t know. We may wonder how important that is? My predecessor in Amsterdam University, Jaap Kunst, wrote all his letters (or rather his wife) on a typewriter with two carbon copies. Clearly he was convinced of the importance of his letters for future generations. The copies are stored in the archives of the university.