Fairfax to resume photo archiving

The digitisation of Fairfax Media’s vast photo collection is expected to resume following an agreement reached by the publisher with the court-appointed receiver of embattled US company Rogers Photo Archive.

The process ground to a halt earlier this year as the company, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, went into receivership. The proprietor, John Rogers, faces legal action from a host of companies, including Fairfax, for unfinished work and debts well into millions of dollars.

Continuation of the Fairfax work will see hard-copy photos from The Sydney Morning Herald and a raft of New Zealand publications filed in digital form. Negatives from The Age were processed and safely returned earlier this year and digitisation of the rest is already well progressed, the publisher has said.

“We are pleased to be able to resume this important work,” Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir said in a statement today.

“Once the tagging process is completed, our valuable archive of images will become searchable and accessible – and most importantly, preserved for the future.”

The development was also welcomed by Fairfax Media New Zealand executive editor Sinead Boucher, who said: “It is great to now be in a position to continue with this important work to breathe digital life into our vast treasure trove of New Zealand photography.”

If the receiver is not able to fulfill the agreement, the hard-copy images will be returned to Fairfax. The NZ collection will be inspected by the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage to determine if it wishes to keep the hard-copy photographs.

There were fears that part of the collection could have been lost after some hard copy photos were reportedly advertised on eBay after the digitisation process had been suspended. Under the original deal between Fairfax and Rogers’ company, the hard copies of The Sydney Morning Herald images could be sold after the digitisation was complete.

However, Fairfax confirmed last week that the collection was safe and stated this week that it “continues to pursue its recovery options in relation to the limited numbers of hard-copy images that may have been inappropriately dealt with after digitisation was completed”.

In a piece confirming the safety of the collection, Fairfax journalist Chris Berry wrote: “The evidence suggests that these photos have already been scanned and will be able to be returned to Fairfax, and that they are photos that were not by Fairfax staff photographers but sourced from other photo agencies.”

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