Earlier this month I wrote this piece about The Elephant Parade, an event that took place exactly 10 years ago here in London. Streets, parks, squares and indoor spaces were populated by life-size models of baby elephants, painted by a variety of artists. It captured our imagination, and I took photographs of all 250+ elephants. Most of these 1500 photos also featured one or both of my children
That earlier piece contained seven photos of my son (with his face obscured) climbing on an assortment of the elephants. He was five at the time. At the end of this piece there are a few more, showing my son and daughter (who was three). The photos were taken 10 years ago this weekend. Again, my children’s faces are obscured. Before we get there, here are a few reflections about online photo albums.
This Blog remains semi-anonymous: there are no photos showing my face, or the faces of anyone in my family. I will keep it that way for now, but this would be a convenient place to store the albums that are otherwise distributed rather haphazardly all over the web. At least I’d know where to find them. Currently every digital photo I have ever taken (on our original Sony Cybershot, and on a variety of mobile phones) is backed up on a multitude of devices but not all of them are on the web.
When my son was born in 2004, I set up a Yahoo account in his name, and created Yahoo Photo Albums to display every photo that we took of him (apart from the out-of-focus ones). These were visible to anyone with web access, if they knew the URL. I did something similar when my daughter was born in 2006, creating a Yahoo account in her name and Yahoo Photo Albums of a similar type. Sometime in 2007, Yahoo withdrew their Photo Albums service, and the existing contents were transferred to Flickr. Only the most recent 200 images per account were displayed. The rest were still stored on Flickr, but to view them I would need to pay a $25 fee, annually, for each account. I chose not to, but have just checked for the first time in many years and was surprised to see that not only are the pages still there, but they now display the thousands of images that I uploaded in 2004-07.
When the Yahoo Photos were transferred and restricted, I began to upload and share pictures to the space available in my Hotmail account, which has been known as OneDrive since around 2014. At some point I had 25Gb of space on OneDrive, more than enough for many years ahead, but it was reduced to 5Gb in 2016. Did I miss an email telling me it was going to happen? Was there some setting I could have used to keep the extra 20Gb? I never found out, and despite deleting all of my videos and juggling the other content I have never been able to free up more than 6% of that online storage space.
From 2018 until the end of March 2020, every photo and video on my current phone (a Sony Xperia) was automatically backed up to Amazon Photos. Whatever agreement there was between Sony and Amazon (or EE, the UK phone provider) appears to have ended on 1 April, so now I need to back up media files manually. As a subscriber to Amazon Prime I have unlimited storage space for photos, for now at least. From time to time I upload another few hundred pre-2018 files up there, so eventually I might have every digital photo going back to 2004 in one place. The last time I tried this, Windows 10 crashed part-way through the upload. Of course it did.
All of this technical detail will give you some idea of where, online, all of my photos and videos have ended up over the last 16 years. There’s more. I also have an Office 365 account, which comes with a Terabyte (1,000Gb) of storage, to which I have backed up several folders of photographs. And I have numerous shared folders in a free Dropbox account (2.3Gb still available from a total of 6.75Gb) which I use for sharing photos with my family. Originally this was intended for photos and documents that had never existed digitally until I scanned them, but some members of my family started dumping photos from their phones up there too, until I asked them not to. And, for good measure, there are several hundred photos on Facebook as well, including about 125 of the elephant pictures.
There may be people out there who have also been taking digital photos for the last 16 years or more, and who have worked out a simple way to store everything in one easily accessible online location. If so, I haven’t met them. Most of us have used whatever services were available at the time, and moved on whenever the terms and conditions forced us to. If you have an unbroken collection of photo albums in one place, going back to 2004 or even earlier, congratulations. You are probably unique.
To finish, here are my children getting to know some elephants in Green Park, 10 years ago this weekend. (This is the first slideshow I have set up on this Blog; click on any photo to launch it.)
Green Park, 19 June 2010