Have You Considered Your Photographic Legacy?

Last week I read a forum post on a website where someone asked the question about what to do with all their photography. While I took the intent of the question to be more about what to do with their photography when they are gone, the answer was more related to photographic archiving.

I’ve been in professional photography for over 30 years so it’s not hard guess my age group. From time to time the question pops into my mind about my photographic legacy in regards to all my images.

While I have done some great work and plan to do a lot more, I have created some images that helped a lot of people and companies make money, shared a unique and interesting place with the world through a publication, or brought joy to someone’s family.

When I think about my image files I wonder what will happen to those images when I’m gone. I will not be one of the great masters whose work ends up archived at some center for photography or auctioned at Sothebys.

Instead, I have a large database of stock imagery, some of which has made substantial money while some has yet to even be seen.

What will become of all of these images? (No I’m not terminally ill or departing anytime soon. LOL)


It seems there are few options.

With the state of today’s stock photography industry and difficulties with getting images accepted due to oversupply, it would be very difficult to place these images in an agency where my children could enjoy stock photo royalties for years to come.

My children will have no interest in my photography collection when I am gone. They have no personal connection to my work. They weren’t there to share the joy of photographing the rainbow or the thrill of capturing our raft bashing through a Grand Canyon rapid.

They never felt the passion and dedication that went into my work. They never saw what we went through to photograph that advertisement or the conversation had with the cowboy during a portrait session. No one was with me when I climbed the mountain to photograph the sunrise or lay under my pickup to photograph a severe lightning storm. Today, this collection of imagery, unique only to me, is data on external hard drives.


Are we all in the same boat?

This is a question that most of us will probably face. Some of our life’s work has had an impact on people somewhere and at sometime. Maybe it was a huge impact or maybe not, but it is our work that has told some part of our world a story from our perspective.

I place tremendous value in that. If my house was on fire, after my wife first and dog second, I would fill my arms with hard drives before dashing out the door. I don’t care about any possessions or even the house. My imagery is priceless, so what happens after me?

Family aside, my legacy is my photographic library. It is a journal of a life of image making. It is my crowning achievement. My contribution to the world while I was here! But will these images mean anything beyond me? While many of my photographs have been available for anybody to see, the experiences of creating them have only been mine.

So it’s possible, when I depart that my imagery on those hard drives will be viewed by those in possession as nothing more than data hogging space, thus creating a higher perceived value as a reformatted hard drive.

My guess is that when I depart, my photographic legacy will depart with me.

What is your plan for all your imagery and photographic legacy?

Please leave a comment.

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