We photographers are notorious packrats! It’s hard not to be when there is so much involved in photography. Many of us have years’ worth of collected gear, boxes upon boxes of prints and negatives, albums, portfolios, collected hard drives of digital data, and so on.
Eventually, that leads to a rather large problem. What do we do with all of this stuff? We can’t keep it all forever—and that’s the thing. Even if we may have virtually limitless space, life is always going to force a change one way or another. Ultimately, when we’re gone, we’ll leave all of this stuff behind for our families to deal with, and that can be an emotionally fraught challenge for them.
But it’s not even necessarily a concern for after we’ve passed on. Sometimes other things happen in life. We may pack up and move cross country or make some other major life change, and in so doing, we discover that we have a huge collection of stuff that, while it was perfectly fine sitting in storage, now it’s a monumental challenge to deal with.
This is an important consideration for us to make—and not even just when we need to move or when we’re planning for a time when we may be gone. I think it’s an important thing to always keep in the backs of our minds. All of this clutter, all of this collected stuff. Do we really need it? For many of us who have been photographers for decades, there may be a closet full of things that we didn’t even remember we had until we got into the closet and started looking through boxes.
It’s good, in my opinion, to periodically assess our collections and decide what to keep and what to get rid of. The answer will be different for every photographer, of course. We all have different reasons for keeping or eliminating things from our collections. But go through those boxes and closets and pull out those old cameras you’ve been keeping. Are you ever going to use them? Will you display them proudly around your home, relics of an era past? Do you have some sentimental attachment to them? If the answer to all three of these questions is “no,” then do you really need to keep them?
Even if the answer is “yes” to one of those questions, is that enough justification to keep them? Again, the answer for every photographer will be different. For some, sentimental value is enough that yes, these old relics deserve a place in the closet or attic. For others, the answer might be no—there needs to be something more in order to justify keeping these things.
Still, these are the questions we need to be asking ourselves, particularly as we mature as photographers and collect more and more stuff over the years. Someday, we or our families will have to move it all, and if we can make that task easier now, then we’ll be doing ourselves a favor.