What I Learned When My Computer Crashed

It happened out of nowhere as these things do; all of the sudden, my computer made a noise like it was turning on, and then the screen went black. It wouldn't respond to me trying to wake it up, once it got to the opening screen it would turn off and on again, and nothing seemed to make it stop. First, I panicked. Obviously, right? Then, I calmed down because I remembered that I keep back ups of everything on my computer from the last 6 months and everything from the last 8 years in three separate machines in two places. I know, it's a lot! Though it may seem like overkill, being that prepared really works when something happens like your computer crashes. Eventually, I got my computer to stop turning on and off, and found that it seemed to be fine and I hadn't lost any data, but it got me thinking; what if I had had no backups of the photos on my computer when it crashed? I had been gathering photos I had of Nick and I because our anniversary was in just a few days, and I had been editing photos to print for my mom's birthday coming up. I would have lost it all. Let me tell you a cold, hard truth that might scare you; 

digital files are not archival.

Although I was worried that I would lose the digital files of all the photos, I wasn't worried that I would lose the photographs themselves forever. The most important photos to me - the one from Nick's senior prom, my family during the holidays wearing the sweaters my mom knit us all, or my sisters engagement pictures - are all printed and hanging in my house. I place such a large emphasis on physical, printed photographs because digital files are going to get corrupted; they're going to get lost, they're going to be accidentally deleted, you're going to spill wine on your laptop, and they'll be gone before you know it. Digital memory won't last forever, and it's so vital to me that I make arrangements to not lose what's important if something crashes.

Even if my computer doesn't literally break or get spilled on, flash drives will become extinct in the same way that CD's and floppy disks have - 
it's only a matter of time.

I encourage you to consider this your friendly reminder to backup your computer and phone, grab that flash drive that's been sitting in your drawer for years, and have your photos printed. There's nothing better than knowing your photographs are safe, and that you have an archival version of them for decades to come.


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Katharine Hannah

Chicago, IL

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.