The Enduring Value of A Local Photo Archive

February 4, 2017
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By Kathy Dorn Severini and George Severini |
Dorn’s Classic Images

We frequently discuss how differently photographic work is treated in today’s digital age, compared to how it was treated decades ago. Or in the case of the Dorn’s archive, over a hundred years ago.

We laugh when we think about how a college kid of today accumulates more shots of his friends in a single day than we did in our entire school years. Very cool for them in terms of personal memories. If . . . big if . . . they take some care to preserve their digital files or ever print them.

We often comment about what we see on Facebook and Flickr. Photo posts, which despite the sophistication of smart phones and digital cameras, are technically poor. Low resolution, overexposed, out of focus. Of course we also see extraordinary photos taken by very talented pros and amateurs of the Two River area. But will there be some consolidated archive that people from a hundred years from now will be able to go to see what life was like today?

Compare that to the Dorn’s archive. A lawyer comes to us because his client wants a photo to show there was once a dock on his property. And he can make a case for building a new dock. New Jersey Transit used Dorn’s photos of the Red Bank train station to be architecturally correct when restoring the building. Dozens of historians have authored books on our area using Dorn’s photos. What pride we can take in our area when we see in photos that Teddy Roosevelt and British royalty made of point of visiting us. Or that Count Basie was once a neighbor.

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Imagine if the 10,000 negatives in Dorn’s archive weren’t in one archive. And historians had only the small fuzzy yellowed dot matrix photos from old newspapers. Or the photos an historian would love to have are in someone’s attic. Or scattered in hundreds of attics! And no way to locate them.

We are so pleased to be the caretakers of the Dorn’s archive and to able to share them in the TRT each week.




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