Memories at risk |

Memories at risk

Shop owner suggests using care with digital photography

Bridget Manley

Robert Libbee, owner of Quality Plus One-Hour Photo, poses Wednesday in his store with some old and new cameras. Libbee is a photographer who thinks keeping hard copies of photos is important in maintaining images for the long term. "I'm not in the picture business; I'm in the memory business," he said.

— Recollections – small moments that, throughout time, can accrue meaning and value to the owner.

It’s what Robert Libbee, Quality Plus One-Hour Photo owner, has built a career around.

In his sun-flooded shop on Victory Way, Libbee surrounds himself with computers, film and cameras of various makes and years.

Still, the center of his trade isn’t in digital cards or film.

“I’m not in the photography business,” he said. “I’m in the memory business.”

Memories of his own, captured on film, line the walls behind him.

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Paramount among them is a shot of a bald eagle Libbee took near Maybell.

He remembers the equipment he used: a Fuji 5100 advanced amateur camera.

And he remembers how many shots he took of the predatory bird.

One hundred and ten shots, to be exact, Libbee said.

A photograph can draw its creator back to the time and place that it was taken, stirring up the emotions associated with the event, adding that, in some cases, a photograph is the only physical reminder a person has of a loved one who has changed or died, he said.

It’s those memories, especially the ones captured in digital format, that he fears can be lost.


Occasionally, customers bring him digital storage devices that have become corrupted.

Their demeanors usually are the same.

“They’re frantic,” Libbee said.

Photographs – the medium that captures transient moments – can become lost or corrupted.

It’s a reality Libbee has encountered since taking over the store from his father, Kirk Libbee, more than a year ago.

“There’s no safe way” to secure photographs, he said, adding that digital cards can become unreadable and photography prints can be lost or destroyed.

Still, he said, some photography forms are safer than others.

Although Libbee dips into both digital and film photography, he prefers to keep physical photographs as a back up to his digital files.

He prints hard copies of all the digital photographs he takes and shoots in both digital and film formats.

He suggests his customers do the same.

Still, many people don’t take the same precautions he does, he said.

He fears that rapid changes in digital technology could render current storage devices obsolete.

“It’s possible to lose a generation of pictures,” Libbee said.

It’s a disturbing prospect for the shop owner.

People depend on photographs to remember small moments – ones that, although seem insignificant at the time, gain value as times and people change, he said.

“It means something,” he said.