When Jen and Rob Richman lost their mother to cancer three years ago, there was one thing they weren’t prepared for—trying to divide up decades worth of family photos.
Their mother had amassed thousands of prints over the years, some stored in albums, but others sat scattered across boxes and crates all over the family’s home.
“It was so overwhelming,” Jen Richman said.
After some deliberation, they decided to digitize those memories—solving the problems of organizing and dividing the pictures—but there weren’t many options, and all of them involved boxing up their memories and sending them off, usually across the country.
Instead, they decided to expand Rob’s Cherry Hill-based business, R3 Consulting, invested in the equipment they’d need to get things started, and got to work scanning about 4,000 photos from their childhoods.
“We did it for ourselves … it just grew from there,” Jen Richman said.
With a year of photo work under their belts, the growth isn’t slowing down, and being a local solution that can offer door-to-door service—rather than mailing photos blindly—hasn't hurt. They’ve tackled client requests of all sizes, but Jen Richman said there’s one that stands out in her mind.
Imagine two SUVs filled floor-to-roof with prints—that’s what one of their biggest jobs, a 16,000-print monster, looked like. In boxes upon boxes, the Richmans carried out what was a total family history.
“It was their whole life,” Jen Richman said.
But even with all those prints to handle, it was all done in a week—reduced to around nine discs—and the prints were back where they were when the whole process started, only now everyone in the family had a copy of their lives in photos.
It’s not just prints, either—they’ve digitized everything from slides to 8-millimeter film to VHS tapes to prints dating back to the 1800s.
While they tout their service as something that can reduce clutter and give everyone in the family a chance to have a copy of their visual family history, the Richmans said another point to consider—even more pertinent after the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy—is catastrophic loss, whether from flood or fire or just age, as prints break down over time.
“Things can be replaced,” Jen Richman said. “You can buy a new sofa—but what’s devastating to people is (losing) their photos.”
They’ve even handled situations where families were split by divorce, leaving attorneys to handle the transfer to digital to make sure that process went smoothly.
“Pictures and memories are very emotional—it’s visceral,” Jen Richman said.
And even though rolls of film are rare any more, getting people to take the plunge from a few thousand prints scattered across the kitchen table, or buried in albums in the basement, or boxed up in the attic is still a challenge, Jen Richman said. But, as she points out, in a world where people share pictures constantly—on cell phones, through social networks, in shared albums online—those analog prints are practically prehistoric.
“Our lives are digital now,” she said. “Once it’s digital, the possibilities are endless.”