It may sound like a sad story because it begins with a boy who has few memories of his father, who died when he was 7 years old. That’s why Mitch Goldstone treasures his only photo with his dad – a snapshot at Disneyland taken in the late 1960s, when the concept of people reflexively reaching for smartphone cameras in their pockets could only happen in Tomorrowland.
But this story, and the personal stories that follow, are not sad at all. And more than half a century later, Goldstone did something with that memory.
He pursues a career focused on the joy of rediscovery. He and his longtime partner, Carl Berman, run ScanMyPhotos, part of a niche industry that specializes in turning billions of analog slides, unprocessed negatives and printed photos taken in the pre-smartphone era into digital treasure chests filled with memories that had been forgotten.
“There’s nothing else like it, there are so few companies that do something that makes people cry when they pick up the product,” Goldstone says. “Fortunately, these are usually tears of joy.”
Breathing new digital life into analog photos can bring back long-buried memories and make them feel fresh. It can bring back the roar of water in old vacation snapshots, resurrect long-dead relatives in their prime, and rekindle the warmth of a childhood pet’s unconditional love. It can remind you of the intricacies of family relationships, recall forgotten moments and, perhaps even better, make them easy to share.
It happened to me. I finally put an end to several years of dithering and entrusted professionals with the digitization of thousands of Kodachrome slides that I inherited from my 81-year-old father when he passed away in 2019.
I hadn’t been able to watch them – not emotionally, but because I didn’t have the proper equipment to go through the analog slides. Converting them into accessible digital media launched me on a journey to my own childhood and the past of my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This, in turn, gives me a better understanding of how I came to be me.
It’s a phenomenon shared by others who have taken steps to preserve analog photos that were painstakingly taken over the decades before smartphones allowed people to regularly take pictures of everything.
It’s not cheap. But if you have the $200 to $300 it will likely cost you to pay for the process — and if you can find the time to rummage through moldy boxes, drawers, and garages — you can find a gateway to experiences like these.
An Actor’s Final Callback
During his award-winning acting career, Ed Asner rose to fame for playing crisp yet lovable characters, the most famous being Lou Grant – the head of the newsroom for two popular television series, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show ” from 1970 to 1977 and an eponym. spinoff from 1977 to 1982. Asner also provided the voice of grumpy Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s 2009 animated film, “Up,” which included a poignant scene about the power of photography to bring back memories.
After Asner’s death in 2021, a similar scene became real. His son, Matt, found hundreds of unprocessed negatives. He decided to digitize them with a print image warehouse.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to get back,” says Matt Asner. “It’s a bit overwhelming. It’s like reclaiming that treasure that opens your eyes to a past that you somehow remember. But a lot of things you don’t remember.
Looking at his father’s photos brought back memories that Matt didn’t realize were buried in his subconscious. One day, Matt was looking at photos taken of him when he was 3 or 4 years old in a Southern California beach house his father rented for the family during the summer. One image in particular opened the floodgates.
“There’s this photo of me holding a dead fish, and I had this crazy memory of finding it on the beach and keeping it with me for four days,” the son recalled. “My mum finally threw it away when I was sleeping because it stank so badly. It was a very strong memory that I had forgotten.
Digital conversions of old Ed Asner footage have also produced treasure troves of other visual trinkets, including one of the actor as a young man looking introspectively at himself in a mirror – perhaps as he was preparing for a role. Matt now shares some of his favorite photos of his dad on his Twitter account, but his favorite thing is to send them to loved ones – which the digital format makes easier.
“Some of these images have not been seen for 40, 50 or even 60 years,” marvels Matt Asner. “It’s like opening up a strange world for everyone and it brings you closer as a family. My father and my mother were in a way the glue of the whole family. Now these photos replace some of the glue that has disappeared.
The Journey of a Diplomat
After retiring in 2021 from a long career as an American diplomat who worked all over the world, Lyne Paquette returned to her home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and retrieved from storage 12,000 images she had taken from his film camera during his long- varied trips. After spending months sorting through them all, Paquette sent around 3,500 to be scanned.
When Paquette picked them up, she found herself transported to many of the places she had been posted or visited – various countries in Central and South America, Australia, Germany, Bangladesh, Syria and Vietnam. . Although she likes to reminisce about all the good times with all the friends she has made, some of her favorite pictures are of her late parents.
“It brings me so much happiness, but sometimes sadness,” said Paquette, 67. “I can see now: I’ve had a very, very rich life.”
A War Correspondent’s Portfolio
Russell Gordon has worked in 20 countries as a photographer covering assignments that took him into wars, including Bosnia. So yes, he has accumulated a lot of analog images, slides and negatives in his career. He had 200 of his favorites scanned, including unique snaps like the photo of a fellow journalist in Afghanistan who was ultimately murdered by the man he was interviewing in the photo.
“I was like a child at Christmas, waiting with such anticipation,” Gordon, 58, says of the wait for the digital conversion.
He was not disappointed. The memories embedded in the photos are all the more precious to him as he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of covering horrific wars. “I have a little quality of life now, but a lot of my life is formed around nostalgia now,” Gordon says. “So this is such a gift.”
The experience made him more convinced that anyone with analog images should digitize them at the first chance.
“Life happens and people die,” he said with a sigh. “When you leave, unless you leave money, the only thing you leave behind are photos.”
The discovery of a geologist
Clifford Cuffey inherited a passion for geology and photography from his father, who passed away last year.
These common traits combined to leave Cuffey with over 100,000 photos, including approximately 70,000 Kodachrome slides he had taken from 1985 to 2009 using cameras with manual Olympus and Nikon lenses. Many photos were taken during his travels around his interest in geology – his favorite profession.
And his father, a geology professor at Penn State University, had left behind similar photos taken on summer trips when Cuffey and his brother followed as children. But there were also other hobby photos, like trains and railroads that don’t even exist anymore, old pets and, of course, family photos.
Cuffey, 55, spent more than $20,000 digitizing the best of his analog photo collection to help him achieve his goal of creating a geology-focused website. But the investment also produces real sentimental dividends.
“Those are the fun things I did growing up,” Cuffey says. “Every time I look at my scanned photos I have a big smile on my face and I’m so glad I did.”
Some options for digitizing your old photos
With so many images, slides, and other visual media still confined to analog, digitization has become a cottage industry. As with any service or product, it’s a good idea to do some research to determine which service best suits your needs. But here are some places to tip.
• Based on its research, Consumers Guide Review recommends these as the best places: iMemories, LegacyBox and ScanMyPhotos. Other photo scanning sites that have garnered positive reviews include GoPhoto, ScanCafe, Memories Renewed, ScanDigital, DiJiFi, and Digital Memories.
• If you don’t feel comfortable handing over your old photos to strangers or think scanning services are too expensive, there are ways to do it yourself. But it takes some technical expertise, patience and the right equipment.
• If you’re an Amazon aficionado, the e-commerce site rounds up what it considers to be some of the best products in its inventory. PC Magazine recommends these products. If you search on Google and search through another search engine, you will find many other suggestions to scan all those photos by yourself.
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