Photographer passes away - what happens to the equipment etc?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by RaymondC, May 1, 2018.

  1. Have any of you had a time when you know someone was involved with photography including as a hobby who has passed away. What has happened to all the photographic stuff and how long did it take to for this process. Where have the film or digital files gone to and often by the time has the hobby kind of slowed down already?

    I am not involved directly however I do ponder about this.

  2. A photographer friend died a few years ago. His children sold his collection of classic cameras including several Leicas and at least one Nikon Rangefinder. They managed the sale through photographer's groups on FB and Reddit etc. His collection of 50 years of negatives went with them, but probably languish in their attic. He didn't have huge numbers of digital files, so they probably looked at all them and deleted those they didn't want. It all depends on the heirs, some are not interested, some are.
    Saadsalem likes this.
  3. SCL


    Typically we've sold valuable items to individuals at fair market value who contacted us or were mentioned by family members if not specified in the will. If the collection was big but not particularly valuable, often sold the lot to a dealer or estate sales company. What is critical here, is the executor of the estate has the responsibility to preserve the value of the estate's assets, whether distributed, retained, or sold.
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Whatever the collection (of value) mortality being the human condition, it pays to do a rough value summary every so often, and share with family / friends. There are some really unscrupulous individuals who will cheerfully carry off collections for pennies on the dollar. I have come across more than a few horror stories.
  5. In terms of equipment, that is up to the heirs. I turned up at a garage sale for a deceased photography professor last Summer hoping to score a good price on a Rolleiflex only to discover that he was the father of a friend of mine. This friend asked me to help me set a price for the Rolleiflexes, - which I did and which of course was more than I wanted to pay. ;-)

    So no Rolleiflexes for me, but I did end up with some film and this friend later gave me some accessories that they had forgot to sell, so it worked out.

    Just a couple of months ago I was given a bunch of old cameras by the granddaughter of the original owner. She's not so young herself anymore and was trying to purge her house of things she didn't need. Like the friend I mentioned above, she didn't really know what was valuable and what was not. After awhile she just wanted it gone because it had no value to her other than sentimental and I think that fades over time. She made it clear she didn't care what I did with them. Sell them, donate them, use them, throw them away, - she didn't care. Most of that collection wasn't worth much. A lot of the cameras were just a notch above a disposable and I have no idea why he kept them. But there is one camera that's pretty cool, if not actually valuable.

    I also have my father's 8mm movie camera which I doubt I'll ever willingly part with. It's a tangible connection not only to my childhood, but to him. My kids? They won't want it and I'm not bothered by that.

    One question I do have is about online services. If your parent dies and you know that they have a bunch of photos on (for example), is there any way to get access to them if you don't have the login credentials? Someone you could contact and explain that the owner of the account has died and you are the rightful heir?
    Last edited: May 1, 2018
  6. Depending where you are, you might just do some research on "wills and trusts". Photographic equipment and photographs, negatives, digital etc. Is no different than furniture, houses, money etc.
    Spearhead and GerrySiegel like this.
  7. Well, they are. The equipment is salable hardware, but how does someone put a value on the thousands of photos I've taken, most of which are of value only to me? and how do I/we/they determine such? I have a collection of about 50K digital photos, most mediocre snaps, and a few worth hanging on a wall. How/who figures that out, or do they? Will our heirs value any part of our photography other than classic cameras?
  8. SCL


    The executor of the decedent's estate has the responsibility to determine the value of all estate assets, both tangible and intangible, and account for those to the proper authorities, which may include the probate court, the internal revenue service as well as state revenue services in the USA, prior to disbursing the assets. Those accountings are usually shared with the heirs, and often involve resolving family disputes. In my experience, it is a good idea, during one's lifetime, to make appropriate arrangements for disposition of items one thinks might be of particular interest to the appropriate individuals or institutions, in writing. As for who figures out the stated values....executors rely on a variety of resources, including hiring other professionals specializing in valuing certain items where the executor either has little or no professional experience, and those valuations must hold up and be consistent with how the authorities value the same items. It is a detailed and often thankless process, although state laws generally allow for proper compensation of the executor.
    Uhooru likes this.
  9. I was involved indirectly in the disposition of a local pro's estate-or involved in the sense that I bought a fair bit from it.

    In that case, his widow sold the cameras and lenses to a local used equipment shop. This photographer had bought a lot from that shop over the years, and the shop has a reputation for fair dealing(he pays about 70% what he expect to sell it for).

    His studio stuff-including the lighting equipment, modifiers, etc-ended up in the possession of a local camera club of which he was a member. I'm not sure if it was bought from the estate or donated. In any case, I bought all of his lighting equipment and related through the club.

    A lot of this photographer's recent(digital) images are still in circulation on the internet. His negatives and slides ended up with both the club as a whole and certain ones with certain members.
  10. I’ve been thinking and acting on this for the past year, gradually selling off the less valued items, leaving only about 8 film cameras which I have listed with approx values. This list goes with all my other info such as a will, bank details, lists of passwords and whatever else I think is important. I have also created photo books on different subjects. I am custodian of my deceased father’s album so I scanned this and made copies of it for each of the interested family members. Along with a written account of his stories and reminiscing it helps carry his legacy to succeeding generations. I also created an album of my most treasured photos that I personally took. No matter what others think of their artistic merit it is a little bit of me passed on. I am currently creating another album using photos from all those albums that gather dust and take up valuable space. It will be a story of my life. All this saves a lot of space and is more readily kept by others. The original pics are in a couple of shoeboxes.
  11. I was a photojournalist for around 40 years (I've been retired for a couple of years now). While most of the photos I shot were the property of the companies I worked for, many are not. I've left instructions to donate the photos which I have ownership rights to the appropriate colleges in the areas where I shot the photos. For instance, ones I've shot here in Nevada go to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in Los Angeles, UCLA, in Missouri, to Missouri State University. As for the equipment, I only have one Leica which is worth something. The rest of the bunch of cameras I own aren't worth a plugged nickel anymore so I really don't care where they go.

    What's important is to make sure that the images go to somewhere which will archive them (as in making physical copies). It's especially important now that we, as a group, don't make prints much. Digital images only live as long as the devices to read them are available. So what's going to happen in 100 years when your great-great-grandson sees a flash drive with images on it in the attic? It can be the most important event of the 21st century, but he won't be able to download the images, assuming they haven't deteriorated beyond saving.

    Years ago, I was working with Missouri State on compiling personal photos of people who lived in the Ozarks for generations. There were photos available in those albums that can't be found except in private collections. Photos about what life was like 60, 80, 100 years ago. Back then, we copied the prints and made negatives and our own prints and placed them in archival containers. Now, it's important to get to those photos before the relatives "keep the ones they like and delete the rest".
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  12. I do not think anybodys family would put a monetary value on the photos. Unless they were an established professional..... Ansel Adams for example.
    Otherwise, they are just pictures like everybody has in their home.
    The photos, film or digital become the property of whoever the trust says. They can save them or dump them all in the garbage, just like anything else that is left behind after a death.
    Uhooru likes this.
  13. I'm guessing that if it were the most important event of the 21st century, someone will have made prints of it and most living people will already have seen them. :)

    In terms of my own photos, I expect people will know which I most value by the ones I've had printed and framed and are hanging on my walls. Maybe I'll put a little piece of tape on the back of my favorite prints with names of the friends and relatives I'd like to have them. Hopefully, before that time comes, I'll have given away prints to friends and family so I can share in their enjoyment of them while I'm alive.
    Thankfully, "monetary" value is not the only kind of value.
    Roger G likes this.
  14. I have shared some of my photos to those members of my family and friends who have shown genuine interest in them. Most of this has been done electronically, since I don't print a lot. Those who have been to my house have seen the framed prints hanging on several walls. When I am gone, I no longer will have any input into deciding want to do with them.
    tomspielman likes this.
  15. Since I've seen this happen too much, my goal in providing direction to my heirs over what to do with my stuff is to prevent any unnecessary squabbles. Being specific prevents arguments and helps them decide what to do, - even with the stuff that no one particularly wants but may still feel bad about getting rid of. In fact I just may put that into my will, - "Please don't keep anything just because you think I'd want someone to. If you don't want it, give to somebody that does or just throw it out". You're stuck with my DNA, and/or the memories. That's enough."
    Saadsalem and michaellinder like this.
  16. Tom, I've had experience in being the executor of a will. Take my word for it, heirs will squabble, will or not.
  17. Several elderly photographer friends have simply given away gear, often with the cooperation of family who were also longtime friends of the recipients. Families seemed relieved to have one less lot in the estate to deal with. In instances when I was gifted, there was never mention of any monetary impact on the estate. In each case, family members were insistent that I take the items, simply because it had been pre-arranged and agreed to by the family. Never a whiff of dissension.
  18. Well, I didn't say they wouldn't squabble at all, but if I can help maintain the peace between my heirs by making choices ahead of time and not having them argue over what to do, that is something I see as worth doing. That they continue to have good relationships is ultimately more important to me than what happens to my stuff.
    michaellinder likes this.
  19. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    It wont be my problem after Im dead so I really dont care what they do with my stuff. Although my kids area aware of the value of my equipment since they have always been involved in what I do / did.

    michaellinder likes this.
  20. SCL


    The key, IMHO, is that if you know somebody values something you have, equipment or photos, and you are amenable to passing it along to them, either do it before you die, or make a specific bequest in your will. It can be contested, but pretty unlikely.
    Jochen likes this.

Share This Page