Debby Brown's Hocus Focus
Hi there!
Storage, storage, storage. I don't know about you, but I have ended up with so many different ways of storing my stuff, that it feels a little ridiculous.

For instance, I rent a unit about 25 blocks from my apartment for the big items, I have a hard drive for the photos and  electronic paperwork, I store some files on the Cloud, I have an entire closet in my office that just stores business paperwork--and that closet has 3 file cabinets that I consider sub-categories of storage. I have a safe deposit box. And sometimes I even store winter clothing at my dry cleaners!

All well and good, but what happens when something goes horribly wrong in one of the storage facilities?

Read below about Robin Moyer's hideous storage disaster story. And how he beats the odds these days.

Deborah Brown,
Is Digital Storage the Answer?     
Accidents Can Still Happen

It was one of Robin Moyer's worst nightmares. Here's the story in his own words:

In 1978 my studio was on the side of a mountain overlooking the Tamshui River in Taiwan. Typhoon Irma rode up the East Coast of Taiwan for several days in September depositing huge amounts of rain on the island. The super-saturated slope of Red Phoenix Mountain finally gave way and a sea of water, mud and boulders inundated my darkroom. I was away on an assignment and did not return for nearly a month. My houseboy cleaned up as best he could and patched the hole in the wall, but then simply closed the door and left. By the time I returned, the tropics had done their job and the mold was centimeters thick in some places. I was devastated. My body of work of nearly ten years, destroyed. I cleaned and dried the negs as best I could and, for some reason, packed them away.

Nearly thirty years later the digital age was well upon us. I found the boxes of sad negs and made high resolution scans of around 200 of them. My wife, Boots, and I then took turns at the computer, meticulously repairing the images in Photoshop, almost pixel by pixel. Some images would take weeks to achieve a level to where they could make a reasonable print; some were just hopeless.

Ugh, what a loss. But pay attention, because here's a good tip about storing image files. Robin uses a redundant back-up system to store his files now--redundant meaning 3 hard drives that basically back up each other automatically. This is a smart idea, but not fool-proof. Mainly because the hard drives start "dying," which they all do after a while. The trick then is to upgrade your technology constantly, so, as the older drives go caput, you have everything on the newer drives.

What about the Cloud, you may ask? Well, Robin isn't convinced of the Cloud's stability, and he's not the only one with that point of view (see this Huffington Post blog). So his personal back-up system will be the one he uses from now on.

Have a look below to see a few of the images from the 1970's salvaged negs, followed by a much more recent large format assignment: images for a chapter of a book called Water Margin: Hong Kong's Link to the Sea.  Both bodies of work were shot in black and white and were made into gorgeous platinum prints; but the first group are scans from repaired film negatives, the second group was shot digitally. See if you prefer one over the other.

And keep scrolling, because after the pictures, there's a part 2 to the water damage story!

 All images are ©Robin Moyer
The top three are from the '70's. To see more from that group, click here .     


These next three images are from the Water Margins book. Robin was surprised to see how much of Hong Kong's natural landscape and wild areas have been preserved over the years. In fact, 40% of HK is designated a Country Park and Nature Preserve. Strange to think of that city as being anything but concrete and steel.

To see more of these images, click here. To buy a copy of the book, click here.

So back to the negs from the 1970's. Remember Robin's story above about how most of those negs were at best only water-logged and at the worst were completely ruined? Well, after repairing the not-so-damaged negs, scanning them and storing the scans on hard drives, Robin stored the original negatives in his office in Hong Kong. They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but apparently they haven't heard of that in Hong Kong. Because 6 years ago, the apartment above Robin's office sprang a leak and yes, you guessed it, those poor negs got another dose of water and soggy plaster! Damaged beyond repair this time. But fortunately, the hard drives with all the scans are intact.

By the way, if you're feeling nostalgic, or have a connection to the HK waterfront or you're a collector of photography, or just like Robin's images, all these prints can be ordered directly from him here.

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Deborah Brown & Associates is an agency providing outstanding photography services to the graphic design and corporate communications communities.  For more information, please click here .