FayFoto’s Negative Archive now lives at Northeastern University

boxes of FayFoto negatives stacked in hallway

FayFoto has been involved with Boston’s business, political, advertising and public relations communities for…
well…
we’re not entirely sure of the year of origin but we’re going with 80+ years.

We covered many assignments and produced many many images over the course of those decades (estimated at over 7.5 million negatives!). Our collection of negatives from the late 60’s until about the early 2000’s (when we transitioned to digital) is essentially unbroken. We also had several metal file cabinets filled with much older negatives that aren’t catalogued in any coherent manner.

We’re not hoarders exactly, but neither are we librarians or curators. Our collection hadn’t been maintained for posterity – photographers are pragmatic and we kept them mainly because someday maybe someone would buy a reprint from an image captured back when.

It is a unique time capsule…

Because we aren’t trained to be information specialists and because we don’t have resources to become that, this collection was effectively useless. Our logs maintained a good record of when an assignment took place and who our client was, but very little else in the way of metadata about the images. In other words, locating and retrieving a negative based on its content rather than an internal reference number stamped on the back of a print was next to impossible. Our logs from that era were hand written, so they couldn’t be quickly or easily searched. The cardboard boxes we kept them in weren’t in any way archival, and they consumed significant space.

What to do?

This is where Northeastern University comes in. Giordana Mecagni, a conservator in the Special Collections division of Northeastern University’s Snell Library reached out to us thanks to a timely referral from a contact at the Boston Public Library who was aware of our situation. As soon as we learned of the breadth and scope of the Library’s collection (which includes the Boston Globe’s archive!) we knew our collection would be in the best of all possible hands.

boxes of negatives in moving van
FayFoto’s negative archive is neatly packed in a moving van

Archivist Daniel Lavoie made several exploratory site visits to our office and on June 5, 2018 the collection rolled off in a moving van to a new home and a productive future.

Here’s a link to the story from the Library’s perspective entitled “FayFoto archive acquired by Northeastern University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections”.

FayFoto Boston is grateful almost beyond words for the Library’s willingness to undertake the daunting process of sifting, sorting, organizing, and ultimately making these images available to historians and researchers. We anticipate that one day someone out there will discover just exactly the image he or she is looking for to tell a story about some aspect of Boston’s history during this era.

A new beginning, not an end

This isn’t the end of the story for FayFoto Boston! We continue to produce new work for businesses and organizations in the Boston area – digitally. It does, however, feel like the beginning of a new story for our older images.

Start Here

Blog posts by their nature get pushed down as new articles are added.
While we would like to think that everything we write has value and is useful, we do have some foundational articles aimed at professionals who work with photographers. We want to ensure that this “evergreen” content remains visible and accessible.

A Brief Index to Helpful Content

Here’s a short list of articles we feel are of particular value to people like you.

Related to Business “Head Shot” Portraits

Setting Up a Photo Session

Other Topics

Evolution: FayFoto’s Transition to Digital Services

early digital camera

Office Archeology

We have been working at clearing out old and unnecessary stuff recently. After more than 25 years in our current office, you might well imagine there’s quite a lot of that. Recently Wayne unearthed the very first digital camera FayFoto purchased. That got me curious, so I started sifting through old assignment log books for the first evidence of actually capturing assignments digitally.

They started showing up in the Fall of 1999. Given that we’re into the second quarter of 2018 as I write this, that feels like quite a long time.

We weren’t the earliest of adopters, but our market moved us into providing digital services before a lot of other photographers made the leap (or else said “to heck with this” and moved into some other endeavor). Pro-level digital cameras at that time were beyond our means. We eased into the inevitable by scanning negatives and transparencies for years before investing in digital capture equipment. Our first cautious investment in a digital camera was at the upper end of what was then the consumer level. (It was a Kodak DC265, purchased in the Fall of 1999 at the CompUSA around the corner from our office. You can still read the camera’s review in DPReview’s archive!)

Read moreEvolution: FayFoto’s Transition to Digital Services