Self-Portrait Tuesday


I used to work in a photo lab. We were completely un-digital; working with ‘hard’ film only. I learned how to process black and white film by hand. I learned how to tweak the color of photos, manually, to get the result I wanted. I learned how to manipulate and twist film to make it do what I wanted. I learned how to properly crop a photo. I learned how to load the light-sensitive paper without sight, in a pitch black dark room. I learned how to manually load the fragile, raw (unprocessed) black and white film onto the reels and into the tanks, all by touch in a dark box. I learned so much there. I also learned that there are so very many different people in the world. Through others’ pictures, I was able to visit places I’d never seen before: Italy, the Caribbean, France, London, Israel, and so many more. I also learned about tragedy and the different  levels of crime through the Police Department’s photos. I saw things that haunted me weeks after I’d handed the photos over to their office photographer. So much of who I am was fabricated in that photo lab.

The lab also had a small studio in the back; it shared space with the black and white processing area. The lab did fairly well for a few years, but once the popularity of digital hit, it started to decline. I still remained ever loyal to that quaint photo lab, even when we wouldn’t see any customers for hours at a time. It reached the point of decline where there was only need for one or two people working instead of the 5-6 from its years of prosperity. The other person that worked there with me was a guy named Stephen.  He was an aspiring photographer (and has since become quite successful), teaching himself everything he knew. Since we received free processing of all of our film, he would shoot rolls upon rolls of film, testing out different angles and lighting. More times than not, I was his subject. There was nothing better for us to do. Towards the very end, the machines started to break down a lot, so while we waited for machine parts we would play in the studio.

This photo was taken in the studio, along with most of the others below; all of them were taken by Stephen.  I remember exactly at what point my life was in each of these photos. The one above was shot when I was healing after the most painful heartbreak I’d ever experienced. 

In case any of you were wondering, the baby photos are of Kaitlin at 1 week old.


4 Responses to “Self-Portrait Tuesday”

  1. Stop it – you are making me cry again seeing those pictures of my first precious little granddaughter. For those of you who don’t know me, I now have a second precious granddaughter, Taylor, who is 8 months old. She lives a lot closer to me (1 1/2 hours away) and thankfully I get to see her more often than my precious two in Texas. I love all of you guys.

  2. I trained in the photo lab too. I miss the hands on feeling of working through a piece in the dark room. Digital is great too, but there is something sad about the change. I miss Polaroid photos too!

  3. 3 Geertrude

    Oh, I would love to have learned to process real photo-film. My father used to develop and print himself when I was very young, but I can’t remember that (I even think he stopped because he didn’t want the chemicals jn the house – his darkroom was a closet next to our bedrooms).
    I love the pictures!

  4. i love the picture of K’s feet in your? hands. so precious.

    and fun to see the pictures of you. how long ago did you work there, in the photo place?

    i’ll get back on the self-portrait tuesdays next week . . .

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