Storing Ethnographic Moments

I’m guilty of over-posting photos to facebook. I have an addiction to discovering ethnographic moments.  I really can’t deliver an apology for this – it’s what I do. When I lived in New Orleans, one day something clicked and everything became fieldwork. Every time I saw a musician, which was every day, I had to stop, listen, and snap a photo – even if it was my own ensemble or friends. My 16GB iPhone is bursting with video clips and photos (thousands of them).  Now that I’ve got this nifty digital camera, the numbers are multiplying.  As an aside, I’m excited about taking Matador U’s Travel Photography class this spring… p.s. Matador is my favorite website on the planet. If you haven’t checked it out, do so.

The problem? I’m not really sure what to do with all the photos and clips that are hanging out on my phones, hard drives, and memory cards. I’m hesitant to take them off my phone in case my hard drive has a stroke. Similarly, I’m afraid to keep them on my phone in case I lose it. I don’t know which photo-sharing site to trust. Flickr? Webshots? External hard drive? Perhaps a .mac account would be a good idea. I’m thinking out loud here. When I take notes or highlight articles, I have to have hard copies. I’m not quite sold on everything-digital yet. There are too many flaws – and when I say flaws, I mean I’m just not knowledgeable enough on safe digital storage options. I can’t imagine having boxes of photos lying around the house, but maybe it’s what needs to be done.

The American Folklife Center has a great website and a good concise guide to fieldwork that you can download as a PDF. I picked up a hard copy at the Society for Ethnomusicology conference in L.A. last month. It’s got a lot of great tips, though the equipment section (though meant to be super-basic) could use some updating. Thirty years from now when I write a textbook to be read by at least a dozen undergraduates, I might want to include a photograph of a Mardi Gras Indian that I took in 2006. Perhaps I’m just having some leftover “Katrina anxiety”. Losing the only home videos/photos I had of my father (died when I was 7) gave me a complex. It also taught me to keep everything important ziplocked and sealed in Rubbermaid containers. So, what do you do with your digital photos to ensure safe storage? Thoughts?



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