The Scanner

“I need your help,” she texted me, and mentally I leaped forward, tore off my shirt, and flew into the sunset with unstoppable zeal. Physically, I texted back, “k.” and continued sleeping.

My friend is in nursing school, and she is finalizing her year. As part of her exam, she has to cook up some project to completion, I’m sure there’s a term for it but with my general interest in school, I can’t be arsed to look it up.
She took the titanic task upon her to digitalize 20+ photo albums from one of her clients, and in a way, work together to reconstruct their life, digging deep to bring out the emotional value in the photos. Problem is, her scanner is too small and scanning a single book takes hours. So she came to me, and I’m glad she did.

You may not know this, but decent cameras make excellent scanners. They’re lightning fast, and capture images with great detail. Using them brings a bunch of challenges though, from efficient workflow to accurate color representation and even, neutral lighting.
Luckily, I like a challenge.

The installation that I eventually built, would make a newbie soil himself. Not only did I install my little beast of a computer at her place, but hooked up my camera, set on a tripod looking down at the table top. I went and installed software that allows me to directly control the camera from the pc, automatically transferring each shot automatically into Lightroom for further development. After much testing and tweaking, I worked out a system that needs nothing more than a single click of a mouse button, for a page to be fully scanned, imported, corrected, and saved in RAW format. Turn the page, click. Repeat.

Someone once asked me if I considered photography an art. I responded positively but carefully, fully aware of the vast quantity of terrible, careless pictures out there. But if building something like this isn’t art, what is? Taking components from different systems, finding a common language, and eventually making a train of cause and consequence leading to the digitization of pictures taken literally 100 years ago, it gives me goose bumps. It makes me proud to be able to do this, using deep technical knowledge and improvisation.
I’m a fucking wizard, yo.

I have to admit though, this is where the excitement ends. What follows is a long, labor intensive repetition of framing single photographs on the page, and exporting them separately. It’s an efficient system but it can’t be fully automated, and despite the countless hours I’m saving with this complicated set-up, I created something that only I fully understand, and no one else can run it.
So if you’re wondering where I’ll be the next couple of weeks: I’m cropping photos. 230 photos times 20 albums. Yeah.
Perhaps next time, I should bridle my superhero complex a bit.


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