t’s easier than ever to take a high-quality photo these days. Just point and tap your phone and you’ve typically got the level of imagery that’s better than most $5,000 cameras could capture 20 years ago.
But how do you organize all those photos? Where do you store them? How do you pull them off the phone or all the different storage options these days? It’s almost too easy to take a picture, because we can quickly end up with 40 photos of a gorgeous sunset.
Rhoda Gordon saw this growing societal conundrum as a business opportunity. The Bluffton resident is now part of one of the fastest growing professions today, media organization.
“I grew up around photography; my Dad and Grandpa had a whole film developing setup in the basement. And I inherited so much of our family’s slides and film rolls and 8-millimeter film,” Gordon said. “So it started as a personal journey for me, but I quickly realized this could be a second career for me.”
The New Jersey transplant had a long tenure as an engineer with Bell Labs, but with the last of her three kids about to graduate college, she was looking for a change.
A friend suggested the photo organization as a business. “She knows how organized I am, how I thrive in making sense out of what others see as chaos,” she said. “I thought of what I did alone for our own family collection and realized there are a lot of families in the same bind nowadays.”
Media organizers do much the same thing that a professional organizer might do for closets or garages. They take all the different ways you store memories and make it in to an organized, easily accessible collection.
“I joined a professional association, got certified, kept taking classes and deeper levels of instruction, and five years ago, I opened my own business,” Gordon said. She started Sunflower Photo Solutions, aiming to help take the combination of bins of developed photos along with all the different digital storage options and give families peace of mind.
“I have the ability to centralize any kind of storage, from floppy disks, undeveloped film rolls, slides, flash drives, old computers and phones, external hard drives and cloud storage, and we combine all this into one centralized spot for archiving,” Gordon said. “It can really be a puzzle, and feel like this never-ending mountain of tangled cords. But I’m blessed with the engineer’s brain, the ability to see that mess and get excited because I can see the end of the tunnel where others can’t. I tell my clients, ‘No matter the mess, it can be done. You just need a process.’”
Gordon has grown Sunflower exponentially over the past five years, as she has quickly earned a reputation for producing exciting results.
“Folks thought these memories were gone forever,” Gordon said, but she has the tools and capability to transfer images from older technology onto newer platforms.
Gordon recently completed her biggest job ever, taking a family’s 1.7 million photos and consolidating down to 250,000 organized photos.
“This woman, she’s in the entertainment field, she had all these precious memories but she had 23 copies of one photo on different computers or phones because she just kept copying the same photo because she didn’t want to lose that memory when she switched hardware,” Gordon said.
To get started, Gordon sets up an initial consultation with clients in person or via Zoom and gets a full idea of inventory, storage sources for all the photos and the goals of the client in organizing all the photos.
“I have so many different packages, whether it be scanning old prints and slides or making physical or digital photo books,” she said. “I can create signs and posters for celebrations from the photo once we organize them, or some premium services like creating searchable archives and ongoing collection maintenance. But it all starts with setting goals.”
Gordon used the word ‘process’ many times during our discussion, and that truly is at the heart of what she provides her clients.
“I get so many millennials that just took infinite photos, have so many on their cloud and now they’re pregnant with their second or third child and all these memories are getting away from them,” she said. “This is an issue for all ages. I love methodically creating these solutions. It can be very personal. Sometimes, folks have photos of lost ones they haven’t looked at in years, so helping them unlock that trauma and remembering good times, it can be a lot. But I love what I do so much.”
Gordon’s services start with a free 25-minute consultation to get a grasp of the scope of the project and the goals to achieve. She then creates a digital roadmap for her clients, a literal manual of how to achieve organization and the processes needed to get to an end goal.
“They can take that roadmap and do it themselves, or they can hire me to achieve the goals,” Gordon said.
In addition to saving memories, Gordon sometimes gets involved in a family’s genealogy. “It’s amazing the overlap that can happen in the goals. There is a lot of genealogy that comes into older collections, a lot of fact finding, and I enjoy that as well,” she said, so sometimes she consults with genealogists if a family tree is desired.
It’s not always easy to truly quantify the time needed in tackling a project, thanks to the ever-evolving technology behind photos.
“With ZIP files, I can think I’m dealing with hundreds of photos that can quickly multiply into thousands of photos. So as long as clients are ready for those time commitments and knowing my time estimates can evolve because of it, I’m up to the challenge,” she said.
The top piece of advice she has for do-it-yourself organizers is to always have a backup.
“Folks think they’re covered with iCloud, but iCloud has no responsibility for your photos,” she said. “Have one digital backup source, but you always want to have an off-site backup of your photos out of the house in case the worst happens. We don’t like to think of it, but if it happens, losing those memories can be the worst trauma beyond the fire.”
Whether it’s creating a handful of photo books or creating searchable databases and labeled hardcopy archives, Gordon said she’s always excited for the next challenge.
“Every job is different, every collection is different and every client has a very personal goal in bringing me in,” Gordon said. “I take that very seriously, but I have a lot of fun solving issues others might see as impossible messes.”
Check out Gordon’s work and services online at sunflowerphotosolutions.com.
Tim Wood is a veteran journalist based in Bluffton. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.