I went to art school twice. Once in the very early 80s and again more recently to learn new skills. In the 80s photography was still processed in the darkroom. I spent many days in the dark, smelling the fixer and listening to water dripping. When I went back to school it was to learn about digital photography as I knew nothing about the digital world or how it works. And I knew nothing about how to backup my data.
I was in class one day and the instructor was talking about the importance of backing up digital files. She said that she backed everything up three times. Once to work with, once to keep at home in a secure place, and one in a safety deposit box.
I mentally rolled my eyes, thinking that the overkill quotient was at its limit. Why would anyone do that?
Unfortunately, I found out.
I only had one external hard drive that I used to back up data from my images. Both the original images and the images that I created from the original image, my artwork. I had been in a bit of a hiatus, just bumping along without working very hard so I didn’t have much to back up, or any need to access my stored images.
Until one day when someone wanted to buy an image and I couldn’t find my hard drive. Anywhere. At first, I was sure that it had just slipped behind my desk, or I had put it in a different place from where I usually kept it. But no, it was nowhere to be found. It didn’t leave my studio, it didn’t leave my house. It never leaves my house. Ever. So it has to be here somewhere.
Well, here it is almost six months later, and I still can’t find it. I have done a spring cleaning twice and torn everything apart and put it back together again, but still no luck.
The repercussions am sad
In the old days I had binders filled with photo sleeves which were home to all of my negatives. They were all cataloged so I knew where they were at a glance. They were stored in file cabinets. I always knew where they were as file cabinets are rather difficult to lose.
But…this particular drive had ten years worth of images and work on it. Many of the images would never have seen the light of day, but I would sometimes use something in one image, in another image, or use an image for a background for new work. I had all the mixed media work I have done, as well as all the series that I have created on it as well.
It’s gone. Poof! It makes my chest hurt just to write that.
As a result, I have some to somewhat of a screeching halt. I have not created any new work since last year, except for the experiments I like to do with different mediums. I seem to have lost heart at the moment, and although I have a plan for a new series, I just haven’t started working on it yet.
It’s sort of like when your house burns down. I find myself reaching for my drive because I have an idea, and then remember that it’s gone. Sad.
A new beginning-Trying to be like the Phoenix
The day I realized my drive was missing I was two hours late for a dinner party after having torn my studio apart looking for it. I made it just in time for dessert, which I didn’t really eat. All I could think about was that drive and where it could possibly be.
And it all came back to me. This was karma for the fact that I rolled my eyes at the instructor. That I thought it was dumb to back up so many times. I had another glass of wine, sunk in despair. The hostess is a good friend of mine thank goodness. Otherwise, I can see myself ushered to the door for being Dolly Downer and pushed down the walk to my car.
I wallowed in my despair for a couple of weeks. As it was during the Christmas holidays there were plenty of excuses for me not to even enter my studio, so I didn’t.
Luckily for me, I had some work in my computer that I hadn’t transferred yet to the drive. So my latest stuff was safe. All I needed to do was to start working again. I had moved past much of what was on my drive anyway (I told myself), so creating a new body of work wouldn’t be that hard. Would it?
When you don’t think things can get worse, look out.
But as luck would have it, I ended up in the hospital for two weeks and at home on bed rest with home healthcare for another two weeks. It was another three weeks before I felt I was even going to live. Any momentum I had was gone. I was lucky to be alive.
The long road back. Wear comfortable shoes, it takes a while.
So here I am. It is now the end of July and I am finally in a place where I can start again. I don’t work fast anymore, but I am steady. I put one foot in front of the other and the pace doesn’t matter. What matters is that one foot falls in front of the next.
It helps (maybe) that I got a call from a new gallery that was supposed to show my work in the spring. Because of my circumstances at the time I declined and figured that I couldn’t worry about something that I couldn’t do anything about. Well, they called last week and asked if I could show starting August 1. Talk about last minute. The gallery owner said that the artist they had lined up had to withdraw and she thought of me and was I interested?
Oh yeah. I’m interested. I don’t have a lot of work right now, but I have enough for this show. It’s a little scary having no backlog of work like I usually have so that I can pick what I want to show. This time the gallery gets everything I have and I hope they like it. I always hope they like it. I think it’s part of the artist thing for me.
So here I am…
I am once again starting to work. I think the show was the shot in the arm I needed, along with an email I received this morning asking about my availability next March.
Losing my drive and all of my work was devastating. I’m not sure it’s why I ended up in the hospital, but I can’t rule it out either. My health and my livelihood both suffered, along with any forward momentum I had.
So let this be a cautionary tale for anyone who takes pics of their work, is a photographer or just takes a lot of family pics. Back up everything. More than once. Save yourself the pain and suffering that I have endured because I thought I knew better than someone with experience.
Back up everything.
Below are a couple of websites with great information about backing up your work. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Buy at least two external drives, back up to both of them, and put one in a place where it will ALWAYS be. And if you are really paranoid, use three drives.
Both of the above sites will give an overview on hard drives and how to use them.