Photo Negatives, Digital Positives?

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    This box of photo slides was passed from a father to a son. Old photos can be treasure—if you can get them out of boxes and drawers. (AP/Michael Liedtke)
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    This photo shows Ed Asner with his son, Matt, and daughter, Liza, in Studio City, California, in 1963. (Nancy Asner via AP)
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    A piece of deteriorated movie film (AP/David Duprey)
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    Photo negatives, as well as printed photos, may degrade over time. (Pixabay)
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    Lyne Paquette poses with friends in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1992. (Courtesy Lyne Paquette via AP)
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    Lyne Paquette’s favorite photos are those of her late parents. Here, they pose on Paquette’s wedding day in Ottawa, Canada, in July 1988. (Claire Paquette via AP)
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Most families have boxes of printed photos in storage. Those photos hold many memories, but how often do you take a look? And photo prints, negatives, and VHS home videos degrade over time. That’s why many people are turning to companies that convert analog slides, undeveloped negatives, and printed pictures into digital files.

During his award-winning acting career, Ed Asner was most famous for playing Lou Grant—the newsroom boss in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired from 1970 to 1977. You may never have seen that show, but Asner also provided the voice for curmudgeon Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s 2009 animated film, Up.

Asner died in 2021. After that, his son, Matt, found hundreds of undeveloped negatives and printed pictures. He decided to get them digitized.

Looking at his dad’s photos rekindled memories. Matt now shares some of his favorite pictures of his father on social media. But what he likes best is sending them to relatives—something the digital format makes easy.

“Some of these pictures haven’t been seen for 40, 50, or even 60 years,” Matt Asner marvels. “It draws you closer as a family. My dad and mom were sort of the glue for the whole family. Now these photos replace some of the glue that has gone away.”

After retiring in 2021 from a long career as a U.S. diplomat, Lyne Paquette spent months sorting through 12,000 images she had taken during her travels. She sent about 3,500 to be digitized.

When Paquette got them back, she found herself transported back to the places she had visited, including Australia, Germany, Bangladesh, Syria, and Vietnam. While she loves looking back at good times with all the friends she made, some of her favorite images are of her late parents.

Paquette, at 67 years old, says, “I can see now: I have had a very, very rich life.”

Digital storage isn’t foolproof. Hard drives may fail, laptops get lost, and online storage services may shut down. Still, print photos fade. VHS tapes start to deteriorate after just 10 years. People like Matt Asner find digital versions easier to share. Declutterers appreciate the ability to clear space.

Companies like iMemories, LegacyBox, and ScanMyPhotos offer digitalization as a convenient service. For the do-it-yourselfers, there are ways to digitize at home with some technical expertise, patience, and the proper equipment.

At the very least, it’s worth sorting through your stored photos. What memories might you uncover?

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations. — Deuteronomy 32:7

Why? Photos and videos can help preserve treasured memories. But like everything else on Earth, they break down over time.

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