When the gentleman handed me several packages of old film negatives recently, he was handing me the original photographs. I can be fairly certain of this, since they are the negatives. I can pick them up, hold them up to the light and see the image made by light striking that precise piece of film 100 years ago. The effect is magic. It gave me goosebumps, knowing that so many years ago, some photo technician stood in the dark and pulled the same negatives out of their chemical bath, holding them to the light, much the same as I do now.
Each negative is medium format and a simple contact sheet is enough to get a usable print. Again, by simply passing light through film and soaking it in chemicals for a minute or two.
I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic when I think about how it will feel 100 years from now when all our cell phone photos are gone and our grandchildren can’t log in to Facebook to look at them. And even if they could, the “originals” would have been long lost. Not that there ever were any originals to begin with.
Having a shoebox full of prints or negatives is a treasure that we are going to miss one day.