DAM is not a swear word

DAM. No, not swearing, but Digital Asset Management. Sounds boring huh, but quite the opposite I think.

Yesterday evening I was given the welcome news that I’ve been shortlisted, as part of a team, for an award by the Digital Preservation Coalition, for ‘Safeguarding the Digital Legacy’. But let’s step back a bit…

Many years back in the early period of my shooting digital photographs, when I was working and living in Tokyo, I thought I’d better get on top of the growing pile of harddrives of varying names, sizes and styles. I bought Peter Krogh’s book The DAM Book, sat down with a bottle of wine, and read it all. Safe to say I look back on reading Peter’s book that evening as the moment things turned around in my workflow for digital photography.

From reading the advice on digital asset management – I cleaned up all my folders, migrated them to year-dated folders, onto larger drives, brought order to everything. I worked assiduously to add metadata to everything. I got it all into shape, in a naming system which could grow and a workflow which has been sustainable ever since, over the past almost two decades.

Don’t get me wrong, my system has flaws, isn’t perfect, but it works on the whole, but as with the nature of these things there is always room for tidying up and for improvement. I’ve recommended Peter’s book numerous times since to others who need to get on top of their digital workflow.

Pedestrians play with the touch-digital ‘Mylord Box’ in Mosaic street, in Shinjuku district, Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007.

Fast forward to last summer and as you may remember my complete photographic archive of my 32-year career was acquired by the Special Collections of the University of St Andrews, here in Scotland. My whole archive of photography, from my earliest days. That’s a lot of images. Close to one million (both negatives and mostly digital RAW). And thanks to my DAM workflow, all digital files are captioned, keyworded, and organised into structured folders. Currently they’re being added to the University’s photography collection website, and slowly coming online (see the Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert Photographic Archive).

Fast forward to yesterday evening and I found out that myself and the whole team at the University of St Andrews who have worked assiduously to acquire my archive and migrate the photography into their collection and to get it online for public sharing, have been nominated for a Digital Preservation Award by the Digital Preservation Coalition, sponsored by the National Records of Scotland. Great news indeed, and acknowledgement of the work played by the whole St Andrews team (Rachel the curator, Eddy, Sean the I.T. behind the scenes tech guru, Catriona and Katie). Congratulations to the team!

… and all because I sat down one evening in Tokyo and read The DAM Book, and decided to make an effort with my digital files, the metadata and the archiving of them all. Without taking that action I doubt very much there would have been interest in an archive with no information and no structure. It’s imperative for our photography work, and for its future safeguarding and historical worth, that we take an interest in and look after our digital asset management.

DAM, it’s not a swear word at all.

All images and text ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2022.

4 thoughts on “DAM is not a swear word

  1. An important commentary Jeremy, should be read by those cherished or burdened by a photographic archive with no clear signposting of what to do with. An important message herein also to those institutions with collections who might need some direction in the public facing potential in access to photographic archives.

  2. Jeremy, thank you so much for including me in this post. And congratulations on placing the collection, and getting the recognition. When I started out to write the first book nearly 20 years ago, it was my goal to provide this kind of full lifecycle approach to photographic collection management. Stories like yours validate that work.

    As Malcom points out, there are a tremendous number of collections that are at risk. And the cherish/burden balance can only be tipped to cherish by digitizing, organizing, tagging, and editing the material. I’m working on this for my own collection at the moment. (The digital part is in great shape, the film archives still need quite a bit of scanning).

    New time I’m in Europe, I’d love to visit the collection, if possible.

  3. Hi Jeremy
    This is great news – well done!
    It’s really good to hear about DAM from a photographer’s point of view. As a librarian I’ve been going on for years about how important it is to capture all the relevant information in order to make the material accessible in the future.
    Can I ask please what software did you use or was it just iPhoto?

    1. Thanks Catherine for taking a read! To answer your question I use PhotoMechanic software for all my captioning, keywording and editing (choosing) of pics. Then i import everything to Lightroom to do my post-production and Lightroom also acts as my personal catalogue of work. 1-million images, all searchable by keywords. It’s not perfect catalogue, but i can find most things rather quickly. It’s a non-stop job!

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