This is Why We Archive

Those of you that know me, or have read some of my previous blog entries, know that I did not find the “religion” of archiving until I started doing things digitally in the early 1990s.  Something I now certainly regret.

Earlier this year, I watched a presentation by David Burnett, a well-known photographer, who happens to be from Salt Lake City, and whose work was selected to hang at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. During his presentation, he showed lots of well-known work as well as photographs he made during his formative years.  I remember thinking that I would have a hard time going back and finding work from my formative years. Many of those images are in the libraries of the newspapers I worked for, IF I had filed the negatives properly.

I received an email recently from someone asking if I was the photographer that took a picture that appeared in The Red & Black, the student newspaper at The University of Georgia on a certain date in 1975. I responded that I was a student at UGA then, and I worked on the paper, so there was a good chance the photo was indeed mine.  At this time I was not sure where this was going, as I could not recall too many photos from that time period of my photographic life. I had made a nice portrait of Dean Rusk, I do recall that. I photographed a number of concerts on campus including Steve Martin when he was still doing his “arrow through the head” bit, and the group America. I photographed some student protests. I also remembered some photos of streakers. Streaking was the rage then. People would strip and quickly run from point A to point B and then disappear.

Well, it was about a streaker photo. The email’s author shared a clip from The Red & Black. He was the streaker.  That must make him about my age, so I am sure he gets a laugh out of seeing himself wearing nothing but a mask and a red and black scarf (school colors of course) as he dashed across part of the UGA campus. He related to me that “My wife of 27 years prefers for me to keep the framed newspaper in my closet. My daughter thinks it is hilarious.”  I am having a good laugh just writing about this.

I was not able to help the author very much. I do not have negatives from then. In fact, I don’t have any negatives from my newspaper photography days. I suggested he check with The Red & Black, but I am sure he will not have too much success. First, I would have had to have filed the negatives properly. And then the newspaper, which has moved many times (three in the short time I was associated with the paper) would have had to have properly stored the negatives.

There are lots of reasons to archive content. Finding a negative of a streaker in my digital asset management system is probably not high on that list, but it made me smile today. Hopefully, you smiled too.

David Breslauer
MerlinOne. Inc.

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