What to Do with Old Negatives

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by stephen_greif, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. My father, now deceased, was a portrait photographer for many years. The negatives of his photographs have been in the custody of another, younger photographer, since he retired, and this photographer has been filling the occasional requests (maybe a few a year) for prints. He is retiring himself, and no longer wants to keep the negatives. Does anybody have any suggestions as to what might be done with these negatives? I hate to destroy them, but in turning them over to any private organization like a historical society, there may be privacy issues. Are there any commercial companies who do things like this?
     
  2. You could always keep them yourself, find the nearest shop that does prints, and fulfill the occasional request, making a bit of money.
     
  3. Or, you could wait for the requests to come in, and send the negatives out free-of-charge.
     
  4. learn about archival storage of negatives, and keep them. It's history....the worlds childrens, childrens, children will appreciate your foresight
     
  5. Keep them and print them yourself. Learn about the photographs.
     
  6. jtk

    jtk

    If you're not interested in them and think there's no historic value, burn them. They'll burn nicely. We're awash in photos. Nothing lost.
     
  7. Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm not really interested in investing a huge amount of time in maintaining the collection or fulfilling requests, although the occasional one would be okay. In terms of keeping them long-term, I would have to find somebody to take them over from me in the not-too-distant future (I'm in my 60's). I think that somebody would have to go to a fair amount of effort to get any historical value out of them, and there's still the issue of whether or not it's appropriate to share somebody's photograph/negative, for which they've paid already, with an outside party. I like the suggestion of keeping them and sending the negatives out when a request is received.
     
  8. I'd give them to a local historical group or museum, if they will take them. I don't really see a big problem with "privacy issues" here. Your father was the portrait photographer. He was the owner of the copyright and presumably all rights to the photographs. As his heirs, you and your brother now hold those rights, which you could assign.
    Most portrait photographers will use examples of their work for advertising or hang sample prints in their window. There shouldn't really be a privacy issue here unless the use of the photo was specifically limited in the agreement between your father and the client.
     
  9. Brett Weston burnt his.
     
  10. I doubt anyone would really want the negatives because of the expense just to see what is there. I would think that the thing to do is just store them away and maybe somebody in the family would want to spend some time scanning. You could buy a scanner such as the Epson V500 and scan some yourself if you want. You can just burn them as suggested also. I have hundreds possibly thousands of old negatives from relatives that were in my Mom's house when she passed years ago. They are probably almost all relatives but nobody alive knows who is who in them. I just keep them and once in a while I scan something. The kids could care less about the old film and I imagine the stuff will just hit the trash can after me. They have lasted very well however. Lot's of negatives from the 1910's through the 1950's.
     
  11. There is no reason why they can't be shared on the Web - there is no model release necessary for that AFAIK as long as the context is editorial only.
    Don't throw away history. :)
    Ross B, I bet there are some historically significant images in your collection. Got any examples to show us?
     
  12. The kids could care less about the old film​
    Perhaps now, but as you get older you start seeing the value of these things - they may start to care about them one day, so it's worth taking care of them (it's a pity when no-one can identify the people in the photographs, though).
    I wish that we had taken better care of the slides and photographs my father took in the 1970s, as many have been lost or damaged already - I didn't bother about them that much at the time, but now regret not being more careful.
     
  13. If you don't want to deal with them, give them to the historical museum. They're professionals--we hope--or at least they have experience in separating things of historic value from junk. And they will know how to deal with any privacy issues.
    Think of all the history that has been lost because someone casually decided that old things had no value. Michael Disfarmer worked not too far from where I lived, and all his glass negatives were almost bulldozed with his studio.
    It's odd to me that there would be any debate about this among the members of a photography site.
     
  14. Like almost all archaeologists, I'm really anal retentive. I'd think the local historical society might be a very good place for them if they'll take them. I wouldn't destroy them, if there were anyway I could avoid it. How large is the collection, are we talking a couple of boxes or 20 or 30 file cabinets full?
    If they are just the usual studio portraits, that's one thing. On the other hand, if there are shots of people in local environments and "on-location" the value of the collection is much greater by far. There have been numerous publications of late 19th and early 20th c local photographers whose work has been "discovered." Like regional painters, only more so, and part of our history.
     
  15. If the current photographer has been able to handle a request for prints, I assume that means they're filed by customer. Have you thought of reaching out to the customers and offering the negatives to them? Maybe an advertisement in an area paper? I'd think there may be some interest as to family history and people certainly have the ability to do their own scanning/printing.
     
  16. These are not family photos, just 30+ years of photographs taken in studio settings, so the historical value would be in the existence of the portrait, not the setting. We've asked the photographer who took over the collection about the size and frequency of the requests, and I'll post that when I get it. They are filed by customer, but we have no email addresses included with them, so reaching out directly to 1000+ customers, or whatever it is, is a massive job. We thought about advertising in the paper, but on a small scale figured that isn't likely to be too effective, and on a large scale, expensive.
     
  17. Ross B, I bet there are some historically significant images in your collection. Got any examples to show us?​
    Well I have two pictures on my external drive here. I have others stored elsewhere but this one is kind of cool. It's from 1917 and I actually know who each of these people are as my Aunt named them all some years back before her passing. But here is the 1917 picture.
     
  18. Ross B, I bet there are some historically significant images in your collection. Got any examples to show us?​
    Well I have two pictures on my external drive here. I have others stored elsewhere but this one is kind of cool. It's from 1917 and I actually know who each of these people are as my Aunt named them all some years back before her passing. But here is the 1917 picture. That is all one family.
    00UVQo-173245784.jpg
     
  19. Fast forward to about 1930 and the little boy on the bottom right from the "family 1917" is grown up. Here is a portrait of him.
    00UVQy-173247684.jpg
     
  20. The collection is about 60-70 tubs, each weighing in the vicinity of 35 lbs., and occupying about 3 sq. ft. of floor space each. I'm afraid that's a bit too massive to do much of anything with them other than destroy them. The requests apparently average 2 per year, so I may just pull the negatives of each request for the last 5 years and ask those people if they are interested.
     

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