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When I was in kindergarten and the teacher asked us what we wanted to be, I was only momentarily dismayed to be informed that I could not be a horse when I grew up. I quickly switched to something that seemed comparable to my five year old animal lovers' mind: I would be a veterinarian. For three years this profession really seemed to suit me, until it began to dawn on me more and more, that as a vet I would likely be dealing mostly with sick and injured animals. I was not enamored with that prospect, so decided at the age of eight that I would be a social worker, and deal with people instead.
This appealed to me very much, for I had a compassionate heart, being innately drawn to underdogs, people who were perhaps rejected by others, loners, and hurting; I cared deeply about the plight of humanity. However, by the age of thirteen I had become convinced that people were really messed up and that I would not be able to fix them. Suddenly I was finally at a point in my life when I was being asked to make choices relative how I saw myself functioning as an adult, but I was stymied. I no longer knew what I wanted to do professionally for a career.
I was artistically inclined and talented, but had no desire to work for the corporate man to help him get rich using my skills as an artist. I had a long list of things I had absolutely no inclination or desire to do. I also had a knack for scientific things, chemistry especially, and wondered if I could work in some kind of a research science lab, but had no knowledge of what that might entail beyond peering into microscopes.
It did not seem a promising prospect from such a limited perspective despite my appreciation for how wonderfully well all things seemed to work together on an atomic and/or molecular level to bring harmony out of chaos in the universe (which was quite a comforting cosmology to my teenage mind).
I lost interest in my education, and failed to graduate grade twelve after dropping out for a short time near to the end of the school year. I was one credit short, a credit I surely would have earned but for the fact I was on independent studies in my English class due to being such an avid reader. I didn't care. I was not worldly.
After high school I worked for a year as a waitress in greasy spoons, six days a week, six thirty in the morning until three in the afternoon, having Tuesdays or Wednesdays off, hitch hiking home every day, making a dollar seventy five an hour, and about five dollars a day in tips. I served every table and the full counter in this one joint, helping my boss cook, brewing coffee, making milk shakes, etc, and operating the till by myself, when I discovered after quite a few months in that situation that he was going to hire someone to assist me, and start them at a higher wage: two dollars and hour, which was twenty five cents an hour more than I was making at that time.
I immediately asked for two dollars an hour. He refused, saying he would give me the twenty five cent raise when he had hired a second waitress for our shift. After saying two choice words to him that I cannot repeat here, I walked out, and never returned.
Well, the long and the short of it is that I was convinced by others that being a waitress all my life was not a good thing to just allow myself to fall into; I was encouraged to return to school, first to get my grade twelve equivalent, and then I went to college to study the only thing I knew might motivate me: design arts.
It was at college once a week for three hours Friday mornings that we studied photography. It was the darkroom work that I really fell in love with. Though I could draw with ease and paint well enough when I applied myself,and be moved to tears at the beauty others were capable of creating, the whole world and all my cares and troubles disappeared in the creative process inside the darkroom. All that mattered was the final print, exposed to perfection using light through a focused lens on paper and then putting the exposed, light sensitive paper through a series of timed chemical baths to hopefully achieve the desired result...
However, I again lost interest in school, and dropped out shortly after the beginning of the second year. I started applying for a job that was open at one of two photo labs in my home town. They were not going to hire me because I had no lab working experience, which I pointed out to them I never would get until somebody hired me. They had hired and lost at least three people before deciding to give me chance. I was overjoyed, and I never looked back!
I started my first photo lab job on my twenty first birthday and I always considered it a gift from the Spirit of the universe. I was told fairly early on that I should be running my own lab, but I did not want the managerial headache or responsibility.
I stayed for a year and a half and then hitch hiked for the last time in my life by crossing the country with my guitar, a knapsack, and two friends, forty years ago. We made it to Vancouver from Toronto in five days. I arrived with one hundred dollars in my pocket. Two days later I had a job and an apartment.
I was at that first job here for five years. My boss really appreciated my skill as a printer and I loved working for him, though he was a little unrealistic due to his idealism, and the business eventually failed financially. He was forced to sell fifty one percent of the company away to save it.
The new management did not care about quality at all. I stayed on for about a year. At one point they took me out of the lab completely and had me working at a drop off location halfway into the next city, where there was mostly nothing to do all day but sit around and read. This suited me just fine. I was an avid reader. Then they put me back in the darkroom lab to process and print disc films.
By the time I started to look for my third job in the industry, there was an economic depression going on, but I was confident that it would not affect me getting a job, and it did not. The day I went applying for a job I was shown around the lab where I wanted to work, and phoned the next day to start the following day, even though they were not looking for anyone at that time. I am still there thirty five years later
My job is a joy unto me. I get to look at everybody's pictures. I see the best of the best: beautiful and colorful flora, amazing fauna, famous art galleries and their prized possessions, stunning architecture, travel points of interest, spectacularly inspiring scenery, religious iconography, animals both wild and domestic, family portraiture, engagement and wedding pictures, amateur photos, parties, sporting events, concerts, police forensic work even.
I have printed dead bodies in the morgue, viewed the instruments of death, read suicide notes, seen murder victims before anything was reported in the news, and been deeply moved to see a hand reaching out to touch a war memorial wall. I have witnessed home births and watched those children grow up, graduate, and get married, through the history of family photographs.
I have been blessed exceedingly to see so much beauty in my job, and it has been my honour and my pleasure to be given the task of making these images look as good as they possibly can. The everyday people and the artists and professional photographers who have come to know the toiler behind the scenes, love the work I do for them. If they are unsure about something, they trust my judgment. Some of them write notes for me with their orders, sometimes telling me what they are hoping for, other times just thanking me for the care and concern I take in handling their work.
I have received personal notes of gratitude from famous/highly respected photographers. I laugh to even think of that. It hardly matters to me that they are famous. I do the same for that person as I do for any other: my very best. However, I do appreciate that they appreciate me and the work I do for them I am blessed.
I love the work I do. It is not hard work, though highly skilled. Other people try to sit down and do what I do, but they cannot. Now it is grad season, our bread and butter since digital decimated the art form and put about eighty percent of photographers out of business. This aspect is mind numbing in its monotony due to sheer numbers, hundreds and hundreds of orders every day, day after day, an endless assembly line of various alums from across the country receiving their sashes, diplomas, handshakes and accolades from major secondary places of higher education.
Just before this extremely busy time started we were printing all the little boys and girls in their aspiring positions on the ball teams, the individual shots with their gear and then the multiples of groups shots, plus all the dance schools, mostly younger girls in their costumes, it is really darling, but weeks on end of huge orders coming through day after day. We used to be almost this busy all the time. After forty one years, I am glad to have it slow down at times
I don't look so much upon the amazing 'TALENT', as I so appreciate the gift of being able
look behind their words and feel the hearts who created what they wanted us to see -
their reasons are their own, just like all of us who speak and draw 'pictures with words'/../.