Meet the Camera Man—An Inside Look at How Historical Documents are Being Digitally Captured.


Have you ever wondered where all the images on come from? Who are the people behind the cameras, and how do they do their work?

FamilySearch International is currently capturing over 80 million new images of historical documents per year with the help of some 200 camera operators, including employees, volunteers, and contractors. Once these images are taken, many of them are published online within a matter of weeks at as browsable collections, while other images become indexing projects. Let's meet one camera operator who spends his time capturing images for the rest of us.

With the exception of a six-month stint in Santiago, Chile, Oscar Fabian Riquelme Achucarro has worked in his native Paraguay for the last five years. He is married and has two children, ages five and three. Earlier this year, Oscar accepted a new work assignment in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Oscar works 40 hours a week filming historical documents using a foot pedal to trigger the camera for each image he captures. Thanks to the Internet and Skype, Oscar maintains daily contact with his family. When he is not working, Oscar enjoys sports such as volleyball, soccer, and running before retiring for the evening to his living quarters, a local hotel. When he travels home, however, it's all about sharing time together as a family whether that means going to the park, catching a movie, or going out to eat. Oscar says, "Today I'm far from my family and I miss them, but my job responsibility is to increase even more the immensity of this great work for people to search for their ancestors."

Like most camera operators, Oscar can capture 3,000-5,000 images a day and up to 60,000 images per month. Each daily image capture total depends on the image quality, which can vary greatly. Many of these precious records are deteriorating at a rapid pace due to the lack of preservation, so handling certain records has to be done cautiously. Oscar says, "It is so important that these images from the field get published online to take advantage of the technology that is available to everyone."

Not everyone has to be a camera operator to help people use images to discover their ancestors. Internet indexing, which gives volunteers the ability to extract the names, dates, and places from the historical images Oscar captures, allows people to find their families quickly. Over 560,000 volunteers from all over the world have helped produce nearly 900 million searchable records since indexing started back in 2006.

Thanks to people like Oscar, and thousands of volunteers around the world, we can access our heritage online through the miracle of modern technology. For more information on making these images searchable online by participating in indexing, please visit here.