Brooklyn Entrepreneur Takes Photo Archiving to a Whole New Level: In-Home Service and Searchable Drives.
The field of photo preservation and restoration is growing by leaps and bounds. Numerous online companies offer people the opportunity to convert large numbers of their old photos—taken with film cameras—into digital versions while also retouching them to restore clarity and luster.
Customers typically ship their photos to a company that scans them in bulk for a fee, and then ships them back on a disk.
The problem is, customers don’t really know what they will get back—and there is always the possibility that treasured original photos will become damaged or lost in the process. Moreover, these companies do not typically scan heirloom objects, and the disk is not searchable.
Alice O’Keefe, a twenty-four year old entrepreneur, has solved that problem by providing in-home photo preservation and restoration services to her Brooklyn clients and searchable drives that make finding photos easy.
Originally from Chicago, she studied photography and anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College where she became fascinated with the archiving process.
“My Junior year of College I did my Photography thesis work on places formerly inhabited by my parents and their parents,” O’Keefe relates. “In my family archives, I found photographs of certain houses and their addresses. I photographed homes previously lived in by my parents and grandparents in Chicago, Long Island, and Savannah Georgia. I put the old photographs of the houses next to the ones I took and was hooked.
“From then on, I started bringing back troves of photographs and documents from my parents’ houses in Chicago with me to New York whenever I came home for a holiday or a break. I would scan them at school, pack them in acid free tissue, and place them in an acid free box for long term storage. I digitized around 1,200 photographs for my family and when I was done with what I had—I’m always finding more and more stuff when I visit my mom in Chicago—I wanted more! It occurred to me that other people, perhaps lacking the required time or necessary skills, might want this done for their families.”
After a stint working for an international stock photography company, O’Keefe started myphopreservation.com. The process begins by prospective clients scheduling an in-home consultation with with her. She works in person with clients to identify important people, places, events, and years specific to their photographic archive. “This allows us to create a custom, searchable digital archive, for clients” she says. “At myphotopreservation.com, every client receives a searchable external hard drive. Be it printed photographs, black and white or color negatives, slides, film, or small objects, we digitize nearly everything—from wedding pictures to school awards and even your grandmother’s locket. Originals are organized and returned in one of our signature acid-free boxes, carefully wrapped in acid-free tissue.”
O’Keefe points out that digitization is a great way to preserve delicate and one of a kind images.
“But it’s sort of useless if what you end up with is an unorganized hard drive with no navigation,” she adds. “It’s essentially having the same pile of unsorted photographs you started out with. That’s why we enter client-specific metadata into every photograph. Depending on how large your archive is, we will meet in person every other week to look through what has been digitized up to that point and create keywords to assign to each file.”
One key reason archiving is growing in popularity, she explains, is that photographs and film fade over time.
“Because of exposure to light or varying temperatures, the original colors dissipate if not properly archived. Living in the age of the Internet, it is now easier to share digital versions of everything with whoever you like. In digitizing your photographic archive, you’ll be both ensuring the longevity of the images as they are and protecting what can be shared with old friends, distant family, and future generations. In the case of flood or fire, digitization is a great way to secure your memories should anything happen to the originals.”
Although O’Keefe serves primarily Brooklyn residents, where she lives, she has clients in other cities who know about her skill and expertise.
“My last client lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” she says.”To return her originals and deliver her digital archive, I took a weekend trip to Boston so that I could hand deliver them. Because I would never feel comfortable having my mom ship our family photos to me in the mail, it’s a standard I hold for all my clients. My clients photos are tremendously valuable, and I hold that in very high regard.”
O’Keefe’s work demands meticulous attention to detail. But, she is passionate about what she does.
“I just love handling really old photographs. For example, a photograph from the turn of the century that has been passed through so many hands and seen by so many people. It can, at times, feel as though in holding this hundred year old calling card I am meeting everyone who held it before me, seeing their eyes through the gaze we share of this one image.
“You can learn a lot about a family from their photographs alone. From an anthropological perspective, it’s fascinating. From a personal perspective it is very special and intimate. From a photographic standpoint, it’s exhilarating.” O’Keefe says the easiest way to reach her is via email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the contact page on her website, myphotopreservation.com.
She exchanges phone numbers with clients to coordinate the in-person consultations.
For further information, contact Alice by email at email@example.com
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