Thumbtack adventure

Scanning old family photos has been a little tougher lately since so few services offer color transparency scanning. Any old flatbed can handle most of the standard prints and the larger prints can be photographed with a good digital SLR.

But my sister once visited Oklahoma’s premiere theme park – Frontier City – nearly twenty years ago and to commemorate the occasion, the family bought one of those family portraits.

But this one was a unique little keychain viewer which used an old odd sized color transparency format I wasn’t familiar with. Fortunately, some people still have flatbed transparency scanners – mostly the photographers trying to deal with a changing market.

I remember using dedicated slide scanners decades ago – they were the preferred method for the photographers back in the 90s when I worked at a magazine. Everything was just better fidelity than the flatbeds. But things advanced enough to the point where the flatbeds were winning out. Another case of digital creep – that point where old tech starts to give way to new toys.

SO here comes the gig economy – I needed a one time scan of a one of a kind image from a format that hasn’t been actively used in at least 20 years. In steps Thumbtack, whose SEO criteria carefully matched one of my searches.

I hate sites like Fivr – bad branding and bad attitudes and publicity made me think those were not the way to go. But Thumbtack seemed just left of center enough – same basic model but definitely a more approachable methodology.

Overall, I keep looking for ways to monetize art and my work, but sites like these just seem like they could be eliminated entirely with even better SEO by Google at some point. Since it really is all search based, only based on tasks matching to availability instead of web crawling and search phrases or images.

But it was good experience. I have my scan, spent 30 dollars and less than a full 24 hours later I can send the image to my family. I don’t know what kind of camera, photographer or other equipment was employed to make the original but even the most common iPhone model today can take a better picture than this film format with little assistance.

But it still took someone with a good eye and rare gear to make it happen. I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere but it’s not as apparent as digital creep and technological obsolescence. I think it’s more about needing to preserve certain things at the right time.

The real lesson is that the color transparency lasted over 20 years and sustained very little damage for being a physical thing. A digital photo that isn’t backed up disappears instantly with a careless swipe or a spilled bottle of kombucha (not kidding, that happened to thousands of my photos).

A color slide can survive a lot. I’ve spilled all kinds of other drinks on color slides, sat on them, flung them across the room in anger, and even set a few on fire. Ok, the last one did actually burn beyond recognition, but a corner or too survived. This one in particular survived a few decades in a jewelry box, stored in a non temperature controlled room in a state with temperature swings from freezing to 100 plus summers.

That’s a lesson – how robust are our digital photos when we constantly lose them to carelessness, but just as quickly fill up another device until it, too, is drowning in Kombucha? Haha!