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Digital dark ages


By Raffy Paredes

  • Solo Shrike (Bernard Miranda)

  • Panata (Ryan Eduard Benaid)

  • Untitled (Jovanne Amolat)

  • Untitled (Mark Quimpo)

  • Traslacion (Erwin James Agumbay)

  • Festive Mood (Jan Miguel Lopez)

  • Untitled (Raphael Evan A. Grabador)

  • Dapit-hapon sa Ilog ng Bitbit (Wendel Samodio)

  • Indayog sa Piyesta ng Niyog (Robert Bryan De La Rosa)

    While billions of photos are being created by smartphones and cameras every day, much of them are at risk of disappearing in the future. “We may [one day] know less about the early 21st century than we do about the early 20th century,” says Rick West, who manages data at Google. “The early 20th century is still largely based on things like paper and film formats that are still accessible to a large extent; whereas, much of what we’re doing now—the things we’re putting into the cloud, our digital content—is born digital. It’s not something that we translated from an analog container into a digital container, but, in fact, it is born, and now increasingly dies, as digital content, without any kind of analog counterpart.”

    Computer and data specialists refer to this era of lost data as the “digital dark ages.” Other experts call the 21st century an “informational black hole,” because the digital information we are creating right now may not be readable by machines and software programs of the future. All that data, they worry—our century’s digital history—is at risk of never being recoverable.

    Photographers are (or should be) acutely aware of this challenge for their own digital work. In fact, there are two interrelated questions that loom over your files: how long will the physical media you’re storing digital photos on last and will your image files be readable on the machines of the future?

    There’s no easy solution to this dilemma. Hard drives will hardly last a decade, let alone a lifetime. Flash memory may eke out a few more years but may not endure a generation. Scientists and archivists have placed their trust in magnetic tape in the short run and in DNA in the long run for storing large volumes of information. Without access to either high capacity magnetic tape or DNA, what’s a photographer to do?

    Here are four basic pieces of advice you can follow to ensure your images won’t fall victim to any forthcoming digital dark age:

    Print them. Properly produced and cared-for, inkjet prints can last for 200 years, or more. They look better than DNA when hung on a wall, too.

    Store files as JPEGs. The format is so ubiquitous it’s likely to be machine readable well into the future. The open-source DNG format is also a good choice.

    Preserve your metadata. Ensuring a photo has accurate and thorough metadata is critical to digital photo preservation because it enables future programs to find and organize a photographic collection. It also ensures critical copyright data travels with the images as they migrate from old storage solutions (like hard drives) to new ones that haven’t even been conceived of yet. The XMP format, which like DNG is open source, is a good option for writing metadata.

    Follow the famous “3-2-1 Rule.” That’s three copies of a file, stored in two different places with one of those locations off-site (

    And now to our featured readers.

    From Guimaras Island, street photographer Jhon Macalalag shares an untitled black-and-white photo with silhouettes and floor reflections of people in front of the huge glass windows in a building. “New lang po ako sa photography,” writes Jhon. “Hindi pa po ako sure kung ano po genre ko pero mahilig po ako sa street photography/street portraiture.”

    Two contributors share photos taken during the Feast of the Black Nazarene. Erwin James Agumbay’s black- and-white “Traslacion” photo shows a devotee carrying a small replica of the Black Nazarene. Ryan Eduard Benaid’s “Panata” features the devotees vying for a better position in the procession.

    From three senders are photos from fiestas in the year’s first weeks. From Mark Quimpo is an untitled photo of a dance participant taken during the annual Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-atihan Festival. His description reads: “The  Kalibo Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Festival held  every third Sunday of  January in the Municipality of Kalibo, Province of Aklan is the only festival to be legally called ‘The Mother of All Philippine Festivals.’ The Aklanons celebrate the Ati-atihan in honor of Sto. Niño De Kalibo.”

    “Indayog sa Piyesta ng Niyog” from Robert Bryan Dela Rosa was taken during the January 13, 2018 celebration of Coco Festival 2018 in San Pablo City, Laguna.

    Submitted by Jan Miguel Lopez, BSHRM student at the Laguna State Polytechnic University-San Pablo City Campus is the photo, “Festive Mood.”

    Bernard Miranda sent in the bird photo titled “Solo Shrike.” He took the photo in Baguio City.

    Jovanne Amolat contributed the creative untitled photo of a silhouette amid colored balloons. He took the photo with a smartphone.

    Raphael Evan Grabador shares a black-and-white portrait of a young girl carrying both a puppy and a teddy bear in a crowded and busy section of Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

    And from Wendel Samodio is “Dapit-hapon sa Ilog ng Bitbit” taken by the Bitbit River in Norzagaray, Bulacan.


    Readers may now view issues of Picture Perfect including this column at For comments, suggestions or just to share an image or idea, email [email protected] or [email protected]

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