Kin Lane

I Have Organized All Of My Photos Into a Single Location And Service

After almost four weeks worth of work I finally managed to download all of my photos from a variety of services, and backup storage designations, de-duplicated them, and uploaded all of them to a single service–iPhoto. I went through Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, Dropbox, Google, Amazon, Apple, as well as some local file stores and aggregated all of my photos into a single place. I had to do it in waves on my laptop, because I have so many photos, it all didn’t fit on my hard drive. Eventually I was able to get them all onto my local hard drive after about twenty separate de-duplication jobs. Once done, I still couldn’t get them imported into iPhotos without moving to an external drive and importing in several batches from there.

The process really demonstrated for me how technology platforms lock us in with the volume of data we generate via their applications. The problem with my approach to managing my photos is that I have chased the free or low costing photo provider for almost 20 years, resulting in my photos being spread across numerous providers. As I wrote before, all of this just feels like an emotional trap, inviting photo service providers to get their hooks in me, and not allowing me to move on. I know it was one of the main reasons I stayed with Flickr through two acquisitions, and it was one of the major cords I cut allowing me to get a handle on my Facebook and Instagram accounts. An unorganized massive store of personal photos just opens you up to manipulation by service providers, and there is no reason we should put ourselves in these positions—contributing to the sprawl that is our digital self, while giving platforms the upper hand when it comes to locking us in.

There is a reason Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, and Google allow us to store so many photos for free. It locks us in to using their platforms, and having their applications on our desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. Not having our photos well organized and usable (without the help of their platform) is by design. Making it so you’ll upload, and continually upload gigabytes of photo data is by design. Making it hard for you to leave is by design. Allowing my photos to become such emotional baggage, and letting them sprawl all over public and private locations across the web is just irresponsible of me. And now that I have them cleaned up I can really feel the difference. I have them all in one location. I no longer have zipped up folders of images over there, and often overlapping duplicates over there. I have them in one place where I can organize them, delete the extraneous ones, beginning the hard work of curating my collection to make more meaningful and useful in my work.

I actually use many of my photos in my digital storytelling, so it is important to me to have them organized so that I can put them to work. I also didn’t like having so many photos with dead-end emotional attachments to them, residing in the different photo catalogs I frequented. Nothing like coming across your old photos of the ex-wife when looking for a photo to use in your morning blog post. Or coming across the angry aggressive ex-husband of your sister on a regular basis. Without any order, I was regularly wading through an emotional cesspool of information. Rendering all of my photos pretty useless. Now I can clean up, send them to the people who they will matter to, and eliminate meaningless clutter on my end, which ends us just either costing me money to store, or makes my personal life a vector for Facebook, Google, and others to just mine data from.

I feel like a weight has been lifted. I still have a lot of house keeping to conduct on my photos, but at least they are in one place. I know that any work I do won’t have to be redone against another batch, or after I merge with some older photos from a previous service or device. I now have one place to store and organize my photos. I now have one place to browse and search for my photos when I need them. I now have a process for cleaning up, reducing unnecessary digital bits, and limiting my exposure to just a single photos service provider. I am still uploading select photos to Facebook, Instagram, and other places, but I regularly clean this up after time has passed, and I know that originals always reside in a single location. I cannot articulate what load has been lifted for me with all of this work. A load I’ve been carrying for 20 years, and I am only now coming to realize the impact this digital layer of my existence was actually having my physical self.